Ding, Double Click, Dopamine Dump
Ding. Chime. Notification received. Perhaps we continue through our moment. But our brains caught it, received it and responded. We were alerted. The dopamine was dumped. Conditionally we learn to respond to our phones through the notifications we receive.
Ding. Dopamine dump. Respond. Ding. Dopamine dump. Respond. No ding. Quiet. Pick up the phone and check. What did I miss? Precisely the moment you are living in real life, right now. Here. The moments not in the phone world, or social media front. The living breathing moment in your life now.
Chemically, we are reinforced to be engaged on our phones and technology which is a concerning piece of information. A dopamine dump happens in response to the alerts that come in from your phone and other devices. Dopamine use to be thought of as the “pleasure giving” chemical released in your brain. Research has found that this is actually the opioid system that gives us pleasure. The dopamine system motivates you with “pleasure seeking” behaviors. Pleasure seeking behaviors include searching, seeking out, desiring more. Dopamine effects your general level of arousal and goal directed behaviors which when you think about it, are critical to our daily life. The dopamine process sets you up to do basic things and elevates you to be creative and curious, developing new things. (Weinschenk & Wise, 2012)
There needs to be a balance between the two systems (dopamine and opioid) between “wanting” and “liking” that chemically keeps us going. With our technology, we are amping up the “pleasure-seeking” behaviors. We are continually searching, seeking out and desiring more – double clicking. We need to shut off the dopamine process – or put it on pause – in order to allow the opioid system to reward us and give us pleasure. With the quick response to our texts, twitters, we have immediate gratification and are quickly moving back into the behavior-searching mode. If you don’t put this process on pause, you begin to do a looping through the dopamine system. It is a matter of seeking constantly, getting rewarded, and seeking again. The constant stimulation of the dopamine dump can be exhausting and addictive.
We need to be aware. More and more we are required through our work, etc. to be on technology. We leave work and come home to be on it. Our children are surrounded with it. We need to take steps to make sure we are not setting ourselves up for looping and developing an addiction to our technology. Here are some ideas for managing the technology world.
First, you can turn off your notifications. Although these notifications can be a nice feature, they often prevent us from staying focused and centered on our task at hand. Even when we aren’t checking in after being notified, we are still getting the dopamine response and being distracted. Turn off all visual and auditory cues. Check your phone and computer less often. Be deliberate. Set it aside waiting the deliberate time you establish for checking emails (maybe twice a day). When you are with real live people, put the phone away. Reply later, maybe hours later. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
Have technology-free zones such as when you are eating or when you are in bed. Turn off your phone when you are driving, in meetings or spending time with your children. Fill in time when you are bored with other activities such as reading, meditating, working out or putting a puzzle together. Remove social media apps from your phone so you can only access it on the computer. (Smith, Robinson, & and Segal, 2016). We can gain a lot from our technology world. However, we have to manage it, just like anything else or it can be a set up for losing ourselves and what we have in our real world. Take the necessary steps to keep things in order so they are enjoyable not consuming your life.
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & and Segal, J. (2016, December 31). http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/smartphone-and-internet-addiction.htm. Retrieved from Helpguide.org.
Weinschenk, S., & Wise, B. (2012, Sept 11). https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
LATEST ARTICLES BY Janie Pfeifer Watson
Sign up to receive the latest mental health tips and inspiration