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The Reason Most People Fail at Self Care – Alexandria, VA Chiropractor

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The Reason Most People Fail at Self Care – Alexandria, VA Chiropractor

Self care – we have all heard about how important it is and how we need to keep it present in our lives.  What most people don’t realize is that when they try to engage in self-care behaviors; they are actually on a merry-go-round of self-sabotage.  Enter neurobiology and one of it’s most powerful compounds: dopamine.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that lights up like a Christmas tree in the anticipation of a reward.  It is one of the most powerful motivators of human behavior.  It is here where an important distinction needs to be drawn, the gaping difference between desire and fulfillment.

A scientific study outlined in The Willpower Instinct illustrates the point very nicely.  Rats had dopamine centers of their brain stimulated when they engaged in various behaviors.  What was found was that even in the presence of very negative stimulus, rats would continue to engage in the behavior for the reward of dopamine stimulation.  Running back and forth between levers to get dopamine until they dropped from exhaustion would happen consistently.  Madness?  Let’s not be so quick to judge.

Many people at the end of a stressful and busy day or week turn to “self-care” activities.  Watching TV, going shopping, having a glass of wine all are common escapes and all also have a common thread – they are dopamine stimulating activities.

The problem arises here because dopamine does not create a sense of fulfillment.  It creates a sense of desire to stimulate action towards an end goal of fulfillment.  Let’s take a second to appreciate this.  The rats literally running themselves to collapse were not engaged in fulfillment, they were flooded with a feeling of high urgency action so that they would BECOME fulfilled.

Look at your self care very closely because the things that people most commonly turn to are not fulfilling or restoring activities, they are dopamine stimulating activities which leave the brain wanting and seeking more.  Binge watching an entire season of a show or spending an entire day watching sporting events may not be the rest or break that you actually need.  Many of these activities are actually specifically designed to stimulate your dopamine so that you do keep coming back for more.

I’m not saying throw your TV out the window and never go shopping again.  I am saying that it is important that we understand what is happening in our own brains well enough that we can make a conscious decision for ourselves.  Activities that have been linked with fulfillment are: reading, listening to music, getting out into nature, connecting with other human beings (eye contact, physical touch, engaged conversation).  So if you are truly looking to take care of yourself, take a careful look at where you are spending your time.  Many of us are actually making ourselves more stressed and less fulfilled with the “self-care” we are engaging in.  Fulfillment is possible for everyone, but chasing down dopamine is not the answer we are looking for.

Jake Dodds
Jake Dodds
Dr. Jake is an upper cervical chiropractor in Alexandria, VA. His burning desire is to bring more health into the world, particularly as it relates to men in the family setting. He enjoys guitar, soccer, Calvin and Hobbes, and hanging out with his family.
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