Understanding Dopamine Part I: Your Brain’s Reward System


A few months ago, I started losing interest in writing and business. Part of the reason was because I got a new job. I was making more money, doing more important work, and overall felt prouder of myself. I also had a case of ‘writer’s block’ that I couldn’t shake. But there was more to it than that, I was losing interest in other things and didn’t have as much energy as I did before. I was trying to figure out what was going on when I realized it had to do with dopamine.


Dopamine is your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is the ‘pleasure’ chemical that is released when you do something that your brain likes. The problem is, your brain’s reward system is not logical. By that, I mean that it does not only reward you for things that are good for you.


I’m far from an expert in this subject but I’ll try to explain it the best I can. (Most of my knowledge is from YouTube videos and a few articles I read). Dopamine is released in healthy ways such as after a stressful/painful situation to bring balance back to your body. It is also released during exercise to keep you going and relieve some of that pain/stress as well. There are some things such as sex/masturbation, which is the biggest natural dopamine release by far, that are intended to be good but can turn people into addicts. In this way, dopamine is like a lot of hard drugs. If your body gets big enough dopamine releases and consistent enough, your body becomes dependent on that release and it will upset the balance in your brain.


Food is also a big dopamine release. Your body naturally craves carbs and sugar, so we get big dopamine releases when we eat foods like cake or pasta. Any ‘comfort food’ that has high amounts of salt or fat can do the trick too. That is why you hear people talk about ‘stress eating’, their brain is telling them they need to eat those foods in order to release dopamine and feel better. Gambling, drugs, alcohol, and any other addictive behavior is largely caused by dopamine.


dopamine, netflix, tv
‘Binge watching’ streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu is another cheap dopamine release


So, what was going on with me specifically? There was a little push and pull going on with my brain. I wasn’t getting a dopamine release from Hustle Planet anymore, at least not as big of one. I was starting to lose interest in it. I was far from hitting the high goals I set for myself. After running Hustle Planet for a year, my brain was basically saying ‘Why are you doing this? You’re not getting anything out of it. Go get an easier dopamine hit’. My conscious mind was arguing back that this was my dream: to create a brand and business that I could be proud of. Something that would someday product a full-time income. A business that I would be passionate about and enjoy running. Unfortunately, the subconscious mind is much more powerful than your conscious mind.


*On a side note, I started selling Hustle Planet t-shirts and tank tops through my Amazon store. I hope you check it out! This is one of the ways I monetize my blog, plus you get a cool t-shirt or tank top. Everybody wins.


Another big factor for me was my phone. Ever since the smart phone was released, people have become addicted to their phones. I know you notice it too: people glued to their phones in public. Walking and texting, texting at every red light, even texting while they’re at an event or with friends. It has really gotten out of hand. I found that I was subconsciously picking up my phone and opening Facebook whenever I was bored at work or relaxing at home. If I didn’t have any plans, I would just scroll through Facebook for over 30 minutes, looking at pictures, videos, memes, posts, etc. Over time, my brain became dependent on that dopamine release. I also played two different mobile games that were fun but required you to log-in every 12 hours or so to collect in-game rewards.



Both social media apps and mobile games are designed to be addictive. Social media apps want you to spend time on them so they can show you ads and get you to buy things. They are designed to release large amounts of dopamine. Mobile games are designed in very similar ways. The developers want you to play the game enough so you become addicted to it and will justify spending money on it. There have been cases where people spend thousands of dollars on a mobile game. THOUSANDS of dollars on a mobile game. Luckily, I never fell down that rabbit hole and the most I spent on a mobile game was $10, which seems fair since 99% of these games are free to play and I got several hours of enjoyment out of it.


Social media and mobile games are shallow, addictive experiences that upset the dopamine release cycle. They are designed to trick your brain into being rewarded. They are a mess of clicking buttons, getting notifications, and receiving rewards. You post something on Facebook to get likes and friend requests. You want the social validation and to see what your friends are sharing. You play mobile games because they make you feel like you’re accomplishing something great with minimal effort. You’re collecting rewards, leveling up, and unlocking new characters/features. That is the driving force for dopamine release: the biggest reward with the least amount of effort. Other video games (console and PC) do this too, but not to the extent of mobile games.


The bottom line is that dopamine has a huge impact on your mind. The darkest cases are when people lose all their money or completely ruin their lives. Someone who becomes addicted to heroin, losing their job and family in the process. Someone who becomes addicted to porn, becoming aggressive, depressed, and unable to have a real relationship with someone. Or someone who gambles all their money away, including their life savings: whether it’s at the casino or on a video game with microtransactions. These are all very real cases that have happened to thousands of people, if not more.


So, what can we do about it? And what steps did I take to curb my dopamine deficiency? That is for next week’s article. Be sure to follow Hustle Planet on Facebook to join our community and keep up with new articles, news, and posts. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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