Slaves to Dopamine

One of my favourite posts on this blog was from late last year on dopamine; you can find it here. I found it hard but rewarding to summarise that book but was very happy with the results and felt that I should write it because the information is very salient for Daygamers. Today I’d like to go over another couple of examples of dopamine at play in our lives.

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The first relates to porn and state changes. I was having a conversation yesterday with another Daygamer about how watching porn had impacted him in the past, and how cutting it out had been a massive help. We agreed on how it warps your reality and stops you from finding real women and real situations arousing. This would be one of my top suggestions to any new Daygamer: just stop watching porn; masturbation is fine but cut out the porn!

Dopamine is at play here, massively, and it’s easy to get into a cycle of not having success with women, which leads you to feeling down, which leads you to wanting a state change. See, it’s not the porn itself that we desire, just a change in our current emotional state; we want to feel differently. Porn is so readily available and provides such a dopamine hit that it’s easy to flip open the laptop and start bashing one out. That creates a cycle of negative interactions with women, bad feelings and porn and back again.

This desire for a state change seems to be at the source of tonnes of bad habits. Take unhealthy eating, for example. If you’re feeling bored or sad, then having junk food in the cupboard is a bad idea because you might want the state change and so are tempted by it. The same goes for if you get into the habit of ordering takeaway food.

My approach to get around the problem of state changes is to first identify the problem – realise you do not really want the bad thing and might feel fine doing something else – and then simply get up and do something. It doesn’t have to be anything big at all and might be brushing my teeth, putting some laundry on or going for a walk. If you try this you’ll quickly see that you didn’t really want to engage in the bad habit at all, you just wanted to feel differently.

I ended up watching an old Greg Doucette video on binges and found it related to this topic perfectly. We don’t want to cheat on our diets, but it is going to happen eventually, so he first recommends getting rid of the junk food so it’s not even in the house. In the terms of this post, it would be that if you are looking for a state change that you don’t have the bad habit readily available. He then recommends that if you still want to have the cheat meal, that first you have to eat a very high volume food beforehand such as a massive salad, popcorn or protein ice cream. If you still want to cheat after that, then go for it; at least you’re going to eat fewer calories than you would without having first stuffed your stomach with low calorie dense foods. This would represent reacting to the desire for a state change by swapping out the bad habit for one which isn’t as bad.

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The next example is one specifically related to Daygame and tries to manipulate dopamine for our own ends. This relates to guys “changing it up” and “keeping things fresh.”

It can be dull walking up and down the same old streets if things aren’t going your way (I’ve yet to meet a Daygamer complain about his local area if he’s getting better than average results). That’s the first point, the second is that it seems that once you’ve stopped making bad technical mistakes, your vibe on the day is the most important factor (Krauser wrote half of Daygame Infinite on this, after all).

It makes me think that there is some benefit to doing something different, just for the sake of doing something different, even if that new thing is suboptimal. This should be helpful if you are finding yourself in a rut. By creating a new set of data with a new set of inputs, you start to see new patterns – new events capture dopamine’s eye – and then that good feeling of dopamine bleeds out into the rest of your Daygame. This could come from wearing a new or different piece of clothing, taking a slightly different Daygame route, or Daygaming at a different time of the day, for example.

This can work in other areas of your life. Find a new album, podcast, TV show, etc. that you really like and the dopamine from consuming it will make your vibe better elsewhere.

Take a different route while walking somewhere. You can use Google Maps to find the quickest route, but there will probably be another couple which take a few minutes longer. The odd thing I find is that when I take those alternate routes I somehow believe that they are quicker than the original one, even though the map shows them to be longer. There’s something “special” about the new route which makes it more enjoyable to use.

Use a different exercise in the gym: I don’t believe in muscle confusion, but I do believe that you can get bored doing the same exercises again and again. And so I think that if you are feeling bored then you can do a new exercise, even one which is suboptimal for the particular muscle you want to train, and you will lift with a better mood, and potentially start making gains again.

This is why I called this post “Slaves to Dopamine;” it seems that it can be our greatest ally and our greatest opponent.

Yours unfaithfully,

Thomas Crown

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