The Dopamine Effect

The Dopamine Effect

As I look back at my life, I remember those good and bad choices which I made knowingly or unknowingly. I didn’t know what I wanted back then, heck I don’t know what I want right now. I always follow this theory which I came up with a long time ago, it says that you do something good or bad because of the situations around you and more importantly because of the mindset you have then. I have been a depressed person and a happy person both at different phases of my life. I was too young to understand why my head would ache like it’s on the verge of an explosion and yet I never found a way to kill myself or to stop that headache either. 

Now I don’t want to address my self-harm tendencies which I had back then because if you’re reading this writeup, you already know what I am talking about. Self-harming tendencies are just a by-product of that motionless, yet stormy situation of your mind which we call depression. I feel everyone has their own sets of problems and so why should everyone define depression with just one particular definition? I feel that everyone has the right to create their definition of depression and for me, that’s the single biggest step of conquering your depressed mind. 

Acknowledging that not everything’s right and that your definition is in no way wrong is the first major step towards conquering your depressed mind. It took me days to understand that I am not in my best mental health and that there’s something wrong with the way I appreciate things in my life. I started feeling low for no reason at all. Or maybe that was the reason why I felt so low in the first place because there was absolutely nothing that could excite me anymore. 

I found it quite difficult to focus on any one thing in particular and always felt the need to switch my interests after a few days. This would ensure that I was getting the kick from doing stuff. I got bored with people, activities, relations, and anything repetitive. I was sad for the silliest of the reason I could come up with. I startled everyone around me by being frustrated almost every second of my life. Now as I said, everyone has their definition of depression and this was mine. So I don’t expect everyone to understand me or my situation but to those who can connect with me, I guess you are finally in luck as I finally found a way out of this miserable situation after all. 

The Dopamine Detox

Yes, the Dopamine Detox. Back when I felt uninterested in almost everything and felt that life was over for me when I thought of doing the unjust thing that is to surrender myself to forces of this universe when finding happiness in this static world seemed a bit too difficult for me and hopes were all shattered, it was then I realized my actual problem. Every depressed person demands fun, happiness, zeal, and the very meaning of life from everything they do. I was no different. I expected happiness and fun from everything I used to do. But after some time, as time passed I used to feel so bored or found it too difficult to focus on that particular activity or person, that I used to move on. 

This made me realize that I long for a kick and I almost certainly never get it. That’s when I came across this concept of Dopamine effect. It says that our brain produces a chemical called Dopamine. It is a chemical messenger or a type of neurotransmitter for those who want to stick with the biological explanation. Dopamine is responsible for our pleasure, focus, happiness, and all those emotions which are linked to a reward system. 

So when we feel happy it’s because of High Dopamine and feel sad because of low Dopamine. But with repetitive use of a particular rewards system, in this, a particular person or activity increases the threshold of Dopamine. So this means, in simpler terms, that to be happy just like before I needed to do that same work more or to change that work and start doing something different which could make me happy again. 

But here lies the problem, there were certain definite things which I could have done to keep myself happy. Once I exhausted those sources, I was left with less release of Dopamine and constant sadness and a feeling of depression. I found it difficult to appreciate the small things in life. 

Hence came The Dopamine Detox. I decided to detox myself from Dopamine. In other words, I decide to detox myself from all those activities, food, interaction with all those people, which used to give me happiness or happen to excite me in any way. I decided to do this because I had a concept behind doing all this. I wanted to feel what my life would be if I hadn’t had these sources of happiness in my life. I wanted to feel those little things that life has to offer. 

It was hell for me for the next 3 days. I am devoid of almost any human interaction. I kept my electronic devices aside for all those 3 days and I let myself be bored. I used to pick up my notebook and write down whatever I wanted to write or felt like at that time. But that’s all I used to do in those 3 days. 

Wonder what were the results? 

On the 4th day, I was crying with happiness because I was jogging. I never enjoyed running. I never even thought that jogging could be so much fun. But on that particular day, I felt a strong urge to never stop running. I didn’t want to do anything else. I was not trying to focus, but still, I had a great amount of focus while I was running. I enjoyed the sunshine and the cold breeze of the morning. I could hear birds chirping and felt that there was some music in their chirping.

I suddenly took joy in appreciating little things in life. I felt a new sense of purpose and a rejuvenated sense of happiness in anything I associate myself with now. This led me to the conclusion that often we need to stop our hustles and take a deep breath. Often we need to turn our heads around to count our blessings and to feel the differences people around us bring to our life. Because when you know what your roots are, only then you will be able to appreciate growth. 

It is not easy to hold on to your boats when the sea turns violent, but always remember that putting a full stop is only going to drown you. Instead, try to count your blessings and have the courage to hold on to the boat to see through this difficult phase. Ditch full stops and learn to use a semicolon whenever you think that this is going to be the end.

Written by
Arvind Sinha
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