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Dopamine and Discipline

Dopamine is a chemical in our body that makes us feel good and is released when we get something we want. Once dopamine is released throughout your body, you will want to do whatever you need to do to release it again (Mehta, 2013). This is the reason people get addicted to drugs and other bad habits. Once someone starts the habit of using drugs that release dopamine in their system, they want to do it again and again and again. Some drugs are more addictive than others, but there are other bad habits that we get addicted to that don’t involve taking drugs.

Many people get addicted to taking drugs or drinking alcohol. There are also people that get addicted to playing the lottery, gambling, or sex (“The Surprising Similarities Between Gambling and Sex Addiction”, 2019). There is no external drug that people take to get addicted to those habits, but there is a chemical that people get addicted to and want more of. That chemical is dopamine. When someone has the habit of gambling at a casino every night, that person gets a release of dopamine every time they go to the casino to gamble. Even if they know they shouldn’t go, they go because they want the release of dopamine and they know that gambling will release it and make them feel good. Dopamine can lead to some really bad habits, but it can also lead to good habits.

You can get a release of dopamine any time you get something you want. It’s your body’s way of staying focused on something that seems interesting or rewarding (Samsonovich, 2010). If you want to clean your kitchen and you complete the task, you will get a release of dopamine. If you want a loved one to give you a hug, you will get a release of dopamine when they give you a hug. If you want something that would be rewarding and get it, you will release dopamine. Instead of creating the release of dopamine for habits we don’t want, we need to create the release of dopamine for habits we do want.

One way to use dopamine to create good habits is to create a list and complete the tasks on the list. That’s why to-do lists work well because you get a dopamine release when you cross something off on your to-do list. Dopamine causes instant gratification, which can be powerful. On your way to goal achievement you will not get a whole lot of instant gratification. Most of the time you will forego instant gratification to stay disciplined. Therefore, it’s important to use this knowledge to create a release of dopamine and get some instant gratification and reward yourself for doing things well (Lopresti, 2016)