There are so many strategies to boost your focus that you can try out. You can train your brain to tackle puzzles and sudokus or listen to some music. But I find these pale in comparison to this one particular strategy that has been helping me a lot today. This strategy has made a big impact on my life and has helped me to be more productive and get more out of my day.
This strategy does require a lot of mental strength. However, if you’re able to pull it off, I can assure you you can have a more focused and productive day than ever before. This strategy is as simple as managing your own dopamine levels.
Though the only thing that is simple about it is reading that phrase.
Dopamine is highly addictive drug that our brain produces that makes us feel good. We experience this from so many sources. And it’s that fact that our problem and our solution rests.
To see how this strategy works, it helps to understand more about dopamine and the problems that it’s creating. Once you understand that, you can begin to understand how managing your dopamine levels can boost your focus.
In short, dopamine is a chemical that helps us to feel pleasure. Whenever we scratch something off our to-do list, we get a shot of dopamine. When we exercise, we feel good and get a shot of dopamine. You won’t often know that’s happening as dopamine spreads through the four major pathways of our brain. Even though we are masters of our own body, many things – especially on a neurological level – will often be overlooked by ourselves until it becomes a problem.
So how is this a problem in the first place?
While dopamine makes us feel good when doing activities, our brain isn’t able to parse between what is a good and healthy activity and a bad one. In short, our brain isn’t able to figure out whether exercise is good for us versus eating all you can eat ribs.
What’s worse is that we’re naturally programmed to take the easy route out.
Why that’s the case is thanks to the development of social media and video – specifically mobile – games. Social media has boiled dopamine down to a science and the same goes for mobile games as well. We get. a shot of dopamine when we check our phones to see if there are any notifications from our favourite platforms. We get a shot of dopamine after getting past a really tough or annoying level.
These form the foundation of addictions and many of these addictions can cause some serious harm to ourselves.
Gambling excessively leads to financial strains.
Overeating and eating bad food leads to eating disorders, obesity, heart problems, and death.
Addiction to social media can lead to filtering our lives, excessive narcissism, depression, and a whole host of other mental issues.
The list goes on.
In the end, many companies have spent several years rewiring our brains to be dopamine fiends. And with each passing year it’s only going to get worse. It’ll get worse because of how dopamine works. You already know it’s addictive, but also we slowly build a tolerance for it.
This is how addictions are formed as we need to do more of something in order to get that same feeling as before. You’ll need to eat more to get that same satisfaction, play more of a certain game, spend more money in order to get that high you’re looking for.
Dopamine And A Way To Boost Your Focus
How all of this ties back into being able to boost your focus is simple. There are two main characteristics to take away from dopamine:
- First is that this can be caused by bad habits that we can pick up, but also good ones as well.
- Second is that in order to achieve that same level of dopamine every time, you’ll have to do more of that activity every time.
These two distinct things play a big role in boosting your focus for the future for various reasons.
Even though dopamine can get triggered from bad habits, it’s your responsibility to change that. You’ll need to change your thinking and perception of what is good and bad in your head. Your brain is more focused on the immediate outcomes of things and so you’ll want to train your brain to think a little more beyond that.
Teach your brain that after you eat fast food, you actually feel like crap afterwards.
On the other hand, when you exercise, tell your brain you feel great or energized afterwards.
On a more personal example, I started to develop a habit of binging Youtube videos and gaming. These two things are one of the biggest factors in why I wasn’t publishing as many articles as I once have. How I’ve been able to change that is to rewire my thinking about the whole thing. Not necessarily to tell myself that watching videos or gaming is bad, but that I had other priorities that are important and that I love doing as well.
That kind of example leads into another important aspect.
Because dopamine levels increase the more you practice something, the more time it’ll take in order for you to get that same level. If you are practicing a bad habit – like bing watching Youtube videos, overeating, smoking and so on – these all take time out of your day.
And time is a valuable resource.
With that in mind, your payoff of those bad habits is a short-term dopamine fix. A fix that eventually fades away and you’re left with regret or emptiness.
And is that worth all of that time spent when you could be doing something else?
After spending months doing very little work and now forcing myself to work harder than I have these past five months to build myself back up again, I’d say it wasn’t worth it. I should’ve been spending that time on more productive things and growing my business.
But Those Bad Tendencies Still Linger
But the thing is that those tendencies still linger. Now that I have a marketing team helping me, I find myself checking my phone more often and checking the platforms on the regular to see if there are any results. It’s another dopamine trigger that I need to learn to manage.
I’m also more engaging in Facebook groups as well and tend to pop in on the regular to see new posts and whether people responded to my comments. All of these things can lead to addiction and can derail me especially when I’m trying to work.
There is also my tendency to play video games as well as I developed a habit of doing work and then rewarding myself by playing video games for an hour or two.
And without a doubt, there are other people in that similar boat with different habits. It’s difficult to break those triggers. Especially since those triggers are so much easier to get to compared to others. Again, it’s easy to achieve the same level of dopamine by eating a bunch of food compared to working out.
Working out involves hurting your body on purpose. And pain is something that our body doesn’t like. Food on the other hand is better.
Another example is it’s easier to check our phones and social media rather than putting in work on writing an article or doing something more productive with our time.
It is this lingering problem where you can boost your focus.
It comes down to replacing those triggers with something else that provides more benefits. Before writing this piece, I went out for a walk in nature. There’s a trail not too far from my apartment and today has been cool and sunny. I also spent 10 minutes meditating, focusing on deep breathing and emptying my mind. Feeling the wind brush over me, the grass against my body and the sun against my face.
And while there were a few times I got distracted by sounds or whether 10 minutes was done or not, I forced myself to stay there. To focus on that moment.
All that I did was optimize my dopamine levels.
How Do You Optimize Dopamine Levels?
It’s easy to say all of it, but it’s tricky to implement. Again, I tried to meditate for 10 minutes straight and failed. I checked my phone a couple times, I broke my meditation. Even during the walk, I stopped to record a few videos and take a few pictures.
Even now as I’m writing this, I occasionally glance down at my phone and feel a little urge to check it. I’m not perfect, nor will I strive to be. But I do know I can strive for stronger management of my dopamine levels. And I know you can to.
The first thing to do is to be aware of the dopamine triggers and what’s causing them. The point is to focus on the ones that you think are bad in your life and don’t provide any sort of benefit to you beyond the dopamine fix.
Once you’ve identified that, your next thing is to find a more constructive and beneficial trigger to replace it with. The fact you’re getting dopamine from something suggests it’s a habit that your developing. Because habits are so deep rooted, it’s smarter to replace a bad habit with a better one. Today I experimented with going for a walk and meditating to replace that little bit of video gaming I’d do in the afternoon.
The final thing is to reinforce that new habit and find strong personal reasons for continuing it. This helps to boost your focus as you have more reasons to focus on this over other habits. This is something I’ve inadvertently done with my workouts. I love going to my workouts and exercising more. It’s that love that prompted me to get out of my chair and go for that walk today.
Boost Your Focus By Managing Dopamine
The reason we lose focus in life and in activities is due to distractions and other priorities in our lives. The problem is some of those distractions and priorities aren’t even necessary for us to do. Some of them are habits that we simply do day after day. But when you actually look at them, not all of them serve a purpose or help you to complete a goal.
Some of them are mere methods to get that dopamine fix. And while I think some of those things are good for us, it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t derail you too much. Be aware of your levels and make sure to manage them carefully.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon