An article by Braintropic tells us that, "Dopamine is the key player in the pleasure/reward response, a natural brain function designed to motivate and reinforce behaviors that promote our survival and well-being. Because of the role dopamine plays in this response, it’s sometimes referred to as the 'motivation molecule.'"
Dopamine is released in our brain any time we take an action that results in "rewards." Those rewards can be as simple as the flashing lights after we win a game on our phone or the reply on Instagram from someone we are crushing on. Each time dopamine is released, a feeling of joy and pleasure rushes through our brain making it more likely for us to repeat that behavior that caused that feeling.
With easy access to high-pleasure activities like binging Netflix, scrolling on social media, eating delicious food, dopamine is seemingly one of the most accessible hormones in our society. If that's true, why is it that over 16.2 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2016? The answer could be something called dopamine stacking.
Dopamine stacking is when we stack one source of dopamine on top of another, on top of another, on top of another. Dr. Andrew Huberman tells us this about layering the motivation molecule:
Pleasure is not a problem. Dopamine is not a problem. Too much pleasure experienced too often without a prior requirement for effort in order to achieve that pleasure/dopamine is terrible for us however. It lowers our baseline level of dopamine & the potency of all experiences.
When pleasure is so effortlessly accessible, it holds less meaning. If we continually stack dopamine without any effort to attain it, our baseline level of what is required to give us the same feelings of pleasure and motivation will continue to rise.
What is easy is not always good. And too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Avoid one source of easily accessible pleasure for one week.
What is something you "reward" yourself for that truly doesn't justify rewarding?
"It would be a kind of ferocity to reject indifferently all sorts of praise. One should be glad to have that which comes from good men who praise in sincerity things that are really praiseworthy." - Jean de La Bruyère