One of the biggest challenges is to face ourselves. This is the primary reason that most of us would rather fill our schedules with activities that take our attention away from looking at ourselves. Instead, we are drawn to pleasure, and much like a drug, we seek a fix minute by minute. Each interaction and behavior we have, can give us a specific chemical release or a high. There are four happy chemicals that drive our behavior: Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and Oxytocin.
We release these chemicals the moment we check our phones for messages, text, email, or likes from social media posts, or whenever we kiss or hug our loved ones, to whenever we eat, watch our favorite shows, or even doing our daily tasks. We can create an endless list of behaviors, and we will find that they all vary in duration and intensity in the level of pleasure or chemical release. Depending on the level of pleasure we naturally develop habits to increase or decrease its frequency. As we repeat the behavior over and over, then we form it into a habit as it eventually becomes automatic.
Most of the time it’s easier to build a habit that provides immediate release of such chemicals and it is what happens with sex, food, music and drugs. This is why it is easier to end up addicted to what comes easy, however these behaviors can be costly. They can drain us not just in terms of money, but also in terms of health, and time. Marketing works in this way to drive us to consume and consistently spend our resources.
Conversely, it’s more difficult to have a healthier habit whenever the reward, or chemical release is prolonged or is unpredictable. We are often not motivated to repeat a behavior when we don’t know when the reward will be received, if at all. We experience this when we try to be consistent with scheduled exercise and studying. These often have a delayed reward system unless one finds a way to enjoy the process. This is where a positive and creative mindset comes in handy. Some choose to listen to their favorite music while working out or studying. Thereby associating immediate reward and chemical release with what could be a grueling task.
Now back to self-reflection. Although it can be scary for some, it can also be the most rewarding once it helps to produce the happy chemicals. As a result of knowing ourselves better, we gain control of our behaviors and are then able to make better use of our valuable resources such as our health, energy, and time. We begin to be more intentional as to how we spend our time and gear our chemical releases to healthier behaviors that have a larger pay off, like feeling fulfilled and experiencing long term joy. We are then able to take on bigger projects and exciting adventures that challenge us to collaborate, be creative, contribute, and grow. In the process we are able to increase our skills and knowledge base. By chasing the healthy high we enhance our ability to take on our life goals and mission.
1. Journal your daily activities and write down next to each behavior which happy chemical you are trying to access.
2. Ask if your behavior that releases these chemicals are aligned with your life goals.