Getting out of the Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop

Continuing the theme of reducing smartphone usage, I came across an article that explains about the dopamine seeking-reward loop. What it is saying, in essence, is that dopamine is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible in causing us to want, seek out, and search out for something. The thing is that the dopamine wanting system does not come with a sort of satiation criteria, so it’s possible to get trapped in the continuous cycle of seeking for new things, smartphone addiction for example.

This system apparently is also specifically sensitive to cues about incoming rewards: so things like new notification pings or comments icon. I’d say that seeing new content peeking from the bottom while scrolling through my Instagram feed is a type of cue, too. This is probably an area where setting a phone to grayscale might help, to reduce the amount of sensory attraction these cues are creating for our mind, so while the notification dot will still be there, at least it’s now a muted gray instead of screaming “read-me-now” red.

The end of the article comes with a suggestion on how to break the loop:

Can you get out of the loop? —  The combination of dopamine release in the brain plus a conditioned response with motor movement (the swipe with finger or thumb), makes this dopamine loop hard to stop. One way you can get some control is to create a counter-movement — a physical movement you do that becomes its own conditioned response. For example, my counter movement conditioned response is that when I realize I’m in a dopamine loop I immediately press the home button and place the phone face side down. If you can come up with a physical movement that becomes a conditioned response you can at least break the dopamine seeking-reward loop once it has started.

 

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