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The Dopamine Dance in your Brain
An article published in the New York Times caught my eye this morning and I thought it was fairly brilliant because it’s all about dopamine brain surges. Anyone who is getting sober, or is working on staying sober, understands how it feels to rob the brain of an alcohol-induced dopamine “fix” that has become habitual. At the very least, it sets off a psychological withdrawal, a kind of emptiness or restlessness or craving for something that feels uncomfortable. It’s a “pull” back into whatever habit we formed that set off all that dopamine release in the first place.
The path in early sobriety or intermittent sobriety is all about that “pull” but also all about getting past it. Getting free! Some people do a flawless job of getting and staying sober, but for many, it’s a process and a path strewn with stumbles and falls. And it’s human nature to focus on the disappointments and not on the gains. So that’s where this article comes in.
The author talked about setting ourselves up for dopamine surges with mini-goals that are quickly and easily achieved. Instead of having a To Do list that says Clean the House, we break that down into pieces that we can cross off. We can see progress, we get a surge of accomplishment, it feels good, and it’s motivating. We’ve often heard about the value of baby steps, small incremental steps toward a larger goal. So combining these two concepts, we can acknowledge and reward ourselves for achieving mini-goals, for taking baby steps. The more we do that, the more dopamine we are setting off, the better we feel about ourselves, the more we SEE and FEEL progress.
It builds our self-esteem instead of eroding it.
So that’s going to be my focus this week: Setting myself up for mini-goals and baby steps and getting those dopamine shots and taking just a little time to honor what is unfolding, blossoming, and growing. In my last yoga class of the vacation, the teacher had us draw an Oracle Card and then read the description that goes along with it. My card was a beautiful painting of a woman curled up in the fetal position, very much a “fetus” waiting to be born, tucked inside of a beautiful “womb” flower.
So my fellow travelers on the path of Restore & Rejuvenate & Transform, I’m staying gloriously and joyously sober today. If you are joining me in this place, holler YES!
Let’s honor every tiny gain, and every movement forward, and get those dopamine shots!
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This post is by MaggyD , the author of the blog Maggy Doodles and an active member of BOOM the private, anonymous community inside the Boozemusings website.
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