🧘♂️ The Importance of Balance in Life: Dopamine and H&N Neurotransmitters
Have you ever wondered why, no matter how much you achieve, you always seem to want more? The answer lies in the delicate balance of brain chemicals—dopamine and H&N (Here and Now) neurotransmitters—controlling your desires and your satisfaction.
🧠 Finding the Right Balance of Brain Chemicals
Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD, and Michael E. Long, authors of “The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity–and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race,” argue that finding the right balance between future-oriented dopamine and present-oriented H&N (Here and Now) neurotransmitters is essential to a fulfilling life.
🔮 Dopamine: The Future-Oriented Neurotransmitter
Lieberman and Long note that “Only 0.0005 percent of brain cells produce dopamine—one in two million—yet these cells exert an outsized influence on behavior.” Dopamine triggers that jolt of excitement you feel when you discover the pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing is now on sale – a pleasant surprise that exceeds your expectations.
🚀 Dopamine: The Driving Force for More
While dopamine can help you anticipate and strive for rewards, it also pushes you to always want more.
Dopamine keeps you thinking, “I should go further,” never allowing for the thought, “I’ve achieved enough; I can rest now.”
But dopamine is not all bad. It’s what allows you to make progress and plan for the future.
🧩 Understanding Dopamine’s Role
In essence, dopamine functions in two primary ways. First, it motivates you by anticipating future rewards. Then, it drives you towards those rewards. While this can sometimes lead to an endless cycle of desiring more, dopamine’s dual role is essential to your ability to make progress and plan for the future.
🌱 Here & Now (H&N) Neurotransmitters: The Key to Satisfaction
While dopamine propels you towards future rewards, another set of neurotransmitters helps you find satisfaction in the present moment. The Here and Now (H&N) neurotransmitters – serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphins – give you pleasure from the sensations and emotions you experience right here and now.
It’s the feeling of contentment you get when you curl up with a good book, or the joy of a shared laugh with a friend.
⚖️ Finding the Right Balance
The secret to a happy life? Balancing future-focused dopamine and present-oriented H&N neurotransmitters. When these are in balance, you can both strive for future rewards and appreciate the present moment.
🔍 Do We Have Too Much Dopamine or H&N Neurotransmitters?
In our modern life, it’s easy to be overrun by dopamine. We’re often so focused on our goals that we forget to live in the present. Perhaps you’ve found yourself checking work emails while eating breakfast, or planning tomorrow’s tasks over dinner. Living in constant anticipation of the future can tip our brain chemical balance in favor of dopamine.
🌟 Increasing H&N Neurotransmitters through Mindfulness
To restore balance, you need to boost your H&N neurotransmitters. How? Through mindfulness. Try to be fully present in whatever you’re doing. Enjoy your food, really listen to your loved ones, and take moments throughout the day to be still and observe the world around you.
🎨 Engaging in Activities that Increase Sensations
Another way to tip the scales in favor of H&N neurotransmitters is to engage in activities that stimulate your senses and immerse you in the present moment.
Hands-on activities like painting, pottery making, woodworking, knitting, or playing a musical instrument can put you in a state of “flow” where time seems to stand still. This is when you’re truly in the “here and now,” maximizing your H&N neurotransmitter activity. Think of how a skilled painter becomes absorbed in each brush stroke, forgetting about everything else.
Lieberman and Long argue that “Creating something new, something that has never been conceived of before is, by definition, surprising. Because it is always new, creation is the most durable of the dopaminergic pleasures.” This suggests that creativity not only engages our dopamine system in a healthy way, but it also encourages a balance between dopamine and H&N neurotransmitters.
🚀 Act Now and Embrace a Balanced Life
In our constant pursuit of more, it’s easy to let dopamine take the wheel. But to achieve a truly fulfilling and happy life, we need to cultivate a balance between our drive for future success (dopamine) and our ability to enjoy the present moment (H&N neurotransmitters).
Start now. Embrace mindfulness. Get your hands busy with a creative project. Savor the flavors of your next meal. Make space for the “here and now” in your daily life, and you’ll be on your way to a happier, more balanced existence.