Dopamine – the molecule of motivation and desire to pursue more Part 2

It is worthwhile using the knowledge of the powerful molecule of dopamine and its working mechanism to better our daily life. 
Again, as in Part 1 of the “Dopamine” post I base my suggestions on the podcasts of Andrew Huberman, a Professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the Stanford School of Medicine. Many of you have heard of  these practices/protocols, tried them or use them regularly. They work! They will work even better if you modify them to suit your personality and ability and to stay flexible in their implementation.
1.The first protocol is very simple, free and has proven useful in my own experience. You already know that dopamine is released even in anticipation of an event. If you engage your mind to rehearse your actions with excitement and anticipation, the dopamine will be released as a result and motivate you to really get into action. You just need to be very thorough, to go through the details of the motion, step by step. For example, if you need to study but cannot make yourself open the book just imagine what you need to do in complete detail: – getting up and sitting at the desk, opening the textbook, finding the subject chapter, starting to read and understanding the text, enjoying the reading etc. 

You can use this protocol for everything you want to do but just cannot find the motivation. If you want to do some running  but cannot make yourself to do it – imagine you are getting up from the sofa/bed, putting on your fancy sport gear, then the trainers, then the fancy sports watch, setting it up, go out, starting running, enjoying it and feeling great. I used to practice that with my running, now I am applying it to my yoga sessions and it works every time.

2. Having cold showers. Actually, not only cold showers but also swimming in cold sea, plunging  in cold bath, going to a spa equipped with Scandinavian cold water baskets etc. I have been practicing having cold showers for more than 18 months now and cold showers are part of my morning routine. I start with a warm shower and the last 1.30-2 mins I turn the tap to cold. I like having cold water all over my body including my head but it is time consuming to dry my hair afterwards so I take it as it comes – flexibility is the key. 
The benefits are tremendous. I feel energised, my body feels strong and capable, I have a clear mind and I am calm and alert. The dopamine euphoria lasts approximately 2-3 hours. Delicious! It does not matter how cold the water is and how long you stay in it, as long as it is safe and you feel the benefits afterwards. Nothing dangerous or silly must be attempted. 
I initially heard about the cold dopamine therapy listening to a podcast with Wim Hof (The Ice Man).  His life and achievements are incredible and you can read his life story online. He seems a very charming, convincing and good-hearted man. I have been using his app to guide my cold shower practice and breathing techniques for  more than a year and find it very useful. 
Of course, you need to be aware that you will feel the shock of the low temperature every time you go into the cold water, regardless of how long you have been practicing. But that has very positive side effects – it teaches you to face challenges and to stay calm under pressure. If you do not fancy doing this alone there are local groups that practice swimming in cold water, I personally know a local group of women swimming in the sea called “ The Blue Tits”. It sounds like great fun. 
3. And the last of my protocols for dopamine benefits is intermittent fasting. Firstly, if you recall, regular end rewards actually kill the enjoyment of the activity. Secondly, after every dopamine peak there is a dopamine low. So I practice skipping some rewards. It is the same as being hungry – If you were hungry the food you put in your mouth is delicious, tasty and gives you pleasure. Thirdly, novelty and surprise lead to a huge dopamine release. Giving yourself less rewards, employing novelty and surprise, works not only to release dopamine and motivate you but also helps you to maintain the baseline dopamine level in your body or even to increase it. Sounds counterproductive but it works in reality. I like fashion and buying clothes is one of my rewards for good achievements. However, I often avoid  giving myself this reward. My focus is on enjoying the work, the creativity, the challenge. I am saying to myself that I  am not there for rewards, I am there because I like what I am doing. If the rewards comes, that is even better. 
I remember one morning when I was doing Ashtanga yoga. There is a pose called Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Posture). It was not only difficult to pronounce, it was always difficult for me to do and to hold it. I was very tempted to skip it as it was too hard. And then the thought appeared. – It is hard exactly because I need to do it, I need to work on it, not to avoid it. Facing the challenge to try to hold the posture also gave me enjoyment and excitement.The motivation I received from this thought helps me in many other situations when it is hard. If it is hard it is because we have the pleasure of challenging ourselves to make it easier with practice. 

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