Do you lose motivation to meet your goals before 10am each day? Your lack of dopamine could be to blame. Here’s how to get it back!
Recently, I’ve been having a tough time staying motivated. In the morning, I always start off with a strong determination to conquer my day. I am ready to get stuff done and to stick to my health goals. I have incredible motivation in the morning. I run, I write, I get ready for the day. I have an idea of what I want to accomplish and I feel amazing.
But by 10 am, it’s GONE! The motivation to start working on all the projects I meticulously outlined at 9 am is literally gone. It’s not that I’m tired, I just don’t feel like doing anything productive anymore. My brain wants me to snack on cereal and curl up on the couch to binge watch Veronica Mars (Gotta re-watch before the new season hits!)
I was started to get worried because the window of motivation kept getting shorter! It was around 3pm this would happen. Then it became noon. And now, by 10:00am, my drive is gone. I was losing stamina for my goals earlier and earlier in the day. I wondered if my diet could be responsible. I definitely was drinking too much Diet Coke. I don’t eat a ton of sugar, but I can tell when I start to eat treats, It’s usually followed by a dip in motivation.
The Role of Dopamine in Motivation
We use dopamine to behave in a way that ensure’s our survival. Dopamine drives us to eat, find a companion, have sex, make money, etc. But dopamine isn’t just released when we arrive at these goals. It’s what DRIVES us to accomplish the goal.
Dopamine performs its tasks before we obtain rewards, meaning that its real job is to encourage us to act to achieve something good or to avoid something bad.Idonethis.com
Because dopamine makes us feel good, we continue on the path to reach our goals. Dopamine levels build in the process of working TOWARDS a goal. Once the goal is achieved, we get a big hit of dopamine, and then it quickly goes away. Along the path to getting what we want, dopamine is being released, giving us the motivation to reach the goal. When we are working towards something pleasurable or life sustaining, we feel happy. The working towards a goal gives us longer joy and happiness. Even the anticipation of something pleasurable, something new, something unexpected, or something enjoyable releases dopamine so that we stay on that path.
Why Dopamine isn’t motivating you anymore
The challenge we face today is we found other ways to get a hit of dopamine, without doing any work at all. Drugs, alcohol, distraction, media, caffeine, sugar, salt, constantly being around food, etc. These substances and behaviors encourage addiction because getting the dopamine without work, feels good, the first time. But when it wears off, we’re left with lower levels of dopamine, and we require more of the artificial things to return to the same level of dopamine. It messes with our brain signals because it makes us think it’s possible to get the reward without the work. But, than it stops working.
Caffeine and sugar can give you a quick surge of dopamine at the expense of creating your own natural pathways to get a dopamine hit. And once you aren’t getting dopamine hits by natural means, you aren’t getting them at all.
So, here’s my takeaway. If dopamine is responsible for motivation, and you have been getting dopamine from things like caffeine and sugar rather than working on and accomplishing tasks, you will lose motivation before 10 am. Every. Single. Day.
Embrace the struggle of hard work for the ultimate dopamine high.
When we don’t have to work towards anything to get the dopamine hit (sugar and caffeine), we miss out on all the joy that comes from the chemicals released from working towards the goal. So, science has actually proven: The joy is truly in the journey! The tougher the work, the greater the reward.
How to get dopamine back
So, if you think you’re dopamine triggers are broken, and you want to get back to experiencing the natural highs that will keep you on a path to meeting your goals, it’s time for a dopamine reset!
First, you have to start by eliminating the artificial shortcuts that have been giving you short lived, diminishing levels of dopamine.
- Caffeine (instant feeling of motivation, energy, and focus to move towards our goals, the first time)
- Sugar (instant pleasure, without the work. And with today’s processed food, it’s magnified to levels our ancestors never knew)
- Snacking, or just giving into impulses to eat anytime you have a craving. Satisfying the craving triggers the dopamine reward that we got what we were looking for.
- Social media (the constant checking for something new every time we refresh or open social media gives us a dopamine hit.) “Most social media sites create irregularly timed rewards. This is the secret to Facebook’s era-defining success: we compulsively check the site because we never know when the delicious ting of social affirmation may sound.” (This ENTIRE article is worth reading….source)
- Distraction. Yes, distraction actually triggers dopamine. We get pleasure from our ability to be distracted.
To trigger Dopamine naturally, we can
Then, replace those artificial dopamine triggers with natural ones to reset your dopamine sensitivity. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Write down an accomplishment each day (this was suggested in the book below, Habits of a Happy Brain. Noticing our accomplishments, even small ones, can help us build the dopamine pathways.
- Crossing things off a list- Achieving a reward
- Listen to music
- Eat healthy, whole, naturally sweet foods.
- Sunshine and being outdoors
- Hugs/ affection
- Intermittent fasting or calorie restriction
- Getting adequate sleep
I think this can help us all (including me) get started on a path to more motivation, more energy, and more joy out of life! If you are ready to do a dopamine reset, commit to giving up one of the addictive habits or behaviors for 24 hours, 30 days, or whatever you can. The book below, Habits of Happy Brain says if you can commit to 45 days, resetting your habits to favor natural dopamine release, than you’ll feel the difference! ( Check out this guy who did it)
This summer I’m committing to a reset! My areas of focus will be:
- Eliminating all caffeine
- Getting my sugar through whole foods only.
- Fasting once a month for 24 hours
- Turning off my mobile device DAILY after 5pm.
Who’s going to join me?