Pleasure is something that we all seek in life, whether it’s through indulging in our favorite foods, engaging in recreational activities, or experiencing the euphoria that comes from achieving our goals. It’s a natural human desire to seek pleasure, but unfortunately, it can also be a source of addiction and harm. One of the key neurotransmitters involved in pleasure seeking is dopamine, and it’s important to understand how it can contribute to problematic behavior.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. It’s released in response to pleasurable experiences and motivates us to seek out those experiences again. In moderation, dopamine is a healthy and necessary part of our emotional and physical well-being. It helps us feel good when we achieve something, encourages us to pursue our goals, and strengthens our social bonds.
However, problems arise when we engage in activities that excessively stimulate the release of dopamine, leading to a cycle of pleasure seeking that can be difficult to break. Our modern world has been purposefully engineered with offerings and activities that produce unnaturally excessive releases of dopamine. Social media, for example, has been engineered to be addictive. The same holds for most video games, news programs, and media in general.
The thing to understand about these excessive releases of dopamine is that when our brain chemistry returns back to normal, it doesn’t just return to normal dopamine levels, it drops below normal levels leading to depression, anxiety, nervousness, and all manner of unpleasantness. Thus leading us to seek out more dopamine in order to simply feel normal again and thus requiring more and more pleasure seeking stimulation. This is textbook addictive behavior where the pursuit of pleasure becomes the primary goal and other areas of life are neglected.
Furthermore, when we engage in pleasure-seeking behavior, we often neglect other important areas of our life, such as work, relationships, and self-care. This can lead to negative consequences, such as financial difficulties, strained relationships, and physical and mental health problems.
Another issue with pleasure seeking and dopamine is that it can contribute to a lack of motivation and a sense of purpose. When pleasure seeking becomes the primary goal, other aspects of life can lose their meaning and significance. This can lead to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction, despite the pursuit of pleasure – hence the paradox.
So, what can we do to avoid the negative consequences of pleasure seeking and dopamine? The key is to find a balance between seeking pleasure and pursuing other important aspects of life. It’s important to recognize when pleasure-seeking behavior is becoming problematic and to dial back our reliance on these activities. Anything that you do regularly that causes you discomfort when you are not doing it, like social media or news shows for example, is a good place to start.
Balance is the key.
Check out the Happiness 2.0 Podcast – https://podcast.edwardgdunn.com/