Addiction. Usually the word connotes a physical compulsion to drink or eat too heavily, use illicit drugs, or satisfy our sexual passions in sinful ways. Although some may, most pastors don’t get sucked into such destructive behavior. We are called to serve God with our whole hearts and we mostly stay clear of these issues. But, there is one thing that I’d guess many pastors are addicted to, yet don’t realize it. We can blame our brain on it.
The addiction? Dopamine. Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters in our brain. It’s what we feel when we put the final touches on a sermon. It’s what we feel when we see an uptick in our blog followers on google analytics. It’s what we feel when we accomplish a goal or drink an energy drink.
Dopamine gives us a nice feel good kick. It’s involved in developing the more destructive addictions I mentioned above causing us to want a greater and greater ‘hit’ to feel good. The chemical is involved in reward, motivation, and pleasure prompting us to seek out experiences that invoke it. We not only want it (the motivation) but we like it (the reward it brings).
All the above and more behaviors elicit dopamine which is released in the pleasure center of our brains called the nucleus accumbens. This structure lies just behind the front part of our brain called the pre-frontal cortex.
It simply feels good to get things done. And when we feel good, our brains want to repeat the process so in turn, dopamine helps us form habits, whether good or bad.
So how do I know if I’m addicted to dopamine? Consider these possible indicators.
- I constantly check email. I might get a nice email from someone and when I do, it gives me a tiny shot of dopamine.
- I constantly need something new and novel to feel ‘right.’
- I constantly check Facebook to see if I got more ‘likes.’
- I feel jittery if I can’t look at email for a day or so.
- I have become compulsive about some things, like having to pick up every call that comes to my cell phone or home phone.
- I find that I’m more easily distracted than I once was.
- I can’t get through a day without caffeine or sugar (caffeine and sugar also gives us a nice dopamine fix).
- I’m often mentally exhausted even though I’ve not done mentally taxing tasks.
Fundamentally, when we get addicted to dopamine, we are seeking shots of it while often not doing anything truly productive (like constantly checking email).
So, what can we do if we think we are addicted to dopamine. Consider these ideas.
- Acknowledge that you have a problem.
- Turn off automatic email and social media notifications on your cell phone or computer.
- Take a day off each week when you don’t interact with email or social media.
- Make sure you spend time each day alone with God.
- Check out this entire website dedicate to dopamine addiction.
- Purposely don’t pick up a call when you hear the buzz on your cell phone. Do this for several days to convince yourself that you don’t have to.
What has helped you keep from being addicted to this subtle addiction?