Unhooked

As I am always on a quest for life hacks I can apply, I regularly experiment with cultivating new habits. Some of them I implement intentionally, but surely some of them seep in without knowing.

Lately, it occurred to me that I experienced quite a few mornings starting off slowly. I snoozed much more frequently, flipped over to the other side, reached for my phone and flipped over again. I procrastinated the onset of my day by reading the news, e-mails, and other frivolous notifications fishing for something satisfactory. Twenty minutes wasted. I still needed to shower and eat! Where did time go?

Variable reward

It’s nothing new that psychology is applied to contemporary technology. As a matter of fact, this kind of incited user behavior is really well delineated in Nir Eyal’s ‘Hooked’. As he describes in his chapter on the variable reward, my yen for instant gratification is fairly exemplary. I “hunt” newspaper web pages for relevant headlines to please my curiosity. Moreover, the variability of what I’ll encounter ups the ante: The more haphazard the reward, the more spikes in the neurotransmitter dopamine.

So why don’t I feel contented after twenty minutes? Eyal sets forth that:

“…what draws us to act is not the sensation we receive from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward.”

It’s like wanting greasy savory food during a hangover, yet feeling disgusted after eating it.

Headspace

Besides not getting the coveted dopamine release, the use of one’s smartphone directly after waking up is commonly asserted to “hijack your morning routine”. It resulted for me in eating my breakfast at a snail’s pace and feeling a sense of lethargy and mental chaos in the morning. So I decided to start shaking things up.

Meditating is not new to me, but the optimal time slot during the day is something I was still struggling with. I’ve noticed that evening meditation sessions work well to relax. In the morning, however, I know it enables me to anticipate the rest of day. A calm before the storm type of thing. But I couldn’t always find the time to fit it into my schedule…

That’s why I figured: Why not substitute the aimless craving for dopamine for something that I know that will cater my needs?

So this is my experiment: After I wake up, I immediately sit straight against my wall and commence my 15 minutes of Headspace. I minimize the time between being fully awake and setting myself up in position. I have to admit: It feels a bit contradictory to go back to closing your eyes after you just finished doing that.

Is it that easy?

No, the transition from sleep to meditation can be a bit fuzzy. I have to be more aware not to drift off — which may actually be an advanced form of meditation. I might prioritize showering (possible next story: cold showers!) over meditating.

But I see the significance of finishing this task before anything else. And more importantly, by replacing the insatiable hunger for rewards with mediation, I let myself off the dopamine hook. I got unhooked.

What is your unconscious, yet useless crave for dopamine? Let me know in the responses section below.

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