Dopamine and invisible drugs: haste, hustle, bustle, multitasking. Todays topic is psychological drugs: behaviour that evokes considerable dopamine influx. Activity is a great thing when it is related to your personal integrity and comes from inside. But quite often, our activity is just a mask, curtain, syringe to squeeze a few more dopamine drops out of ourselves.
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Activity is a drug proper
Each time, when we complete a minor task (sending an email, typing a message or posting on social media), our body releases the hormone dopamine. It serves as an important part of the reward system of our brain, thats why we eagerly start new achieving new goals that give us immediate satisfaction.
Id like to ask you, Is there anything in common between browsing VK, the smell of fresh-baked apple pie or hanging out in a nightclub? Do you think that these things are not related to each other? Do you think, they have nothing in common? They do. This is the anticipation of reward.
When you are online on VK several hours in a row, you anticipate that somebody would send you a message or like your recent photo (of course, done poorly, from the point of view of professional photographers).
When you perceive the smell of fresh-baked apple pie, you anticipate the taste of this food and your mouth starts watering. Even if you are not hungry, you still would like to help yourself to some piece.
When you go to a nightclub, you anticipate meeting some girl and waking up next to her. You dont care that 50 similar visits to this place were not successful and you fall asleep at 5 a.m. hugging your pillow. But the anticipation of the girl reward inspires you to go there again and again.
Estimate your addiction to being busy.
According to the Guidelines we are addicted to any substance if we feel at least three of the following seven symptoms:
- habituation we need more to achieve the same effect
example: you enjoy being busy, so when you are disappointed, you try to be engaged more. With time, you need more tasks and projects to feel ok.
- dishabituation negative sensations after withdrawal
example: the couch test is difficult to pass: just to relax on ones own for half an hour without a book or telephone, you get an itch for business: you feel like you didnt catch up with something, didnt complete something, you need to check something or not to miss.
- Misuse using more than was supposed to be used initially
example: you thought it would be one project at first but then it extended to six, and you have to handle all the six.
- lose of control considerable change in behaviour caused by a substance
example: you start feeling better when you are busy head over heels and you dont feel at ease when you are relaxed.
- excessive efforts to achieve something getting beyond common sense to get a substance.
example: you get to a job for the sake of working, handle projects that are not your immediate responsibility, willing to fulfill somebody elses duties.
- extreme prioritization using a substance in a way that harms other, major activities
example: your attention to your current job harms your values and long-term plans
- ignoring negative consequences further usage despite strongly negative consequences
example: being busy and bustling, you harm your health and people around you.
There are several more specific symptoms, for example, digital anxiety and narrow planning horizon.
Narrow planning horizon. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned multitasking limitations cause another issue a lot of people who have to combine a hundred urgent tasks, rapidly narrow their planning horizon. The planning horizon is an economic term describing the period of time to implement the scheduled plan or programme of actions. Generally speaking, the planning horizon is the time frameworks from the plan approval until its implementation.
Digital anxiety. Have you ever happened to read an interesting article and then suddenly open your inbox to start reading emails? Or you check your phone for new messages. You have a feeling that you cant focus on doing one thing due to some internal timer counting a certain time quantum. When it is over, it forces you to switch to the next task (regardless the previous one is finished or not).
Haste and hustle
Addiction to being busy is a result of hormone imbalance in our brain and it is not related to the state of things in reality. Perhaps you know what it is: after a long working week you finally enter a weekend. It is time to have a rest, to relax and just to do nothing. At the same time, on Saturday morning as early as at 9 a.m. you have already scheduled three business meetings, ordered a new wardrobe from IKEA and are about to start four other activities that would keep you busy the whole weekend.
Or perhaps, you happened to experience something similar to this: 8 a.m. and you are in the office already. You have a to-do list with four points on your table your major tasks for today. Then the telephone rings, you answer it… and just before you realize anything, it is 5 p.m. and it is time to go home. Your list is still on the table you havent even touched it, to say nothing about doing anything on it. These both examples show the addiction from being busy — a deep-rooted habit related to a brain chemistry imbalance. Dopamine plays the main role in this drama. Dopamine is an easily addictive drug and it is produced in our brain that responds to reward. Then we feel a short-lived feeling of joy, reward and relaxation…
Dopamine is the major driver that causes our constant engagement. Dopamine is released when you appoint three business meetings, order a new wardrobe from IKEA or scroll down the Facebook news feed. We feel food. But for a short time only. Then our brain demands a new dose. More actions! And we run the closed circle action-award again and again. This is addiction from being busy in action. It sounds familiar to you, doesnt it? As a consequence of the addiction from being busy, we rush for short-time victories. We pay attention to minor details all the time and due to it, we get completely distracted from major objectives. If you are reading these lines and unsure whether it refers to you or not, do a small test.
Next time when you come to the office early in the morning, before starting an intensive activity, just sit down, look through the window or at your PC screen. Do nothing. Dont speak. Dont resolve any issues. Just sit quietly doing nothing for three minutes. If you find this test difficult, if the absence of action is a real challenge to you, you feel uneasy and have a desire to occupy yourself with something you are addicted to action to some extent. Fortunately, a way out does exist.
Being busy is a modern way to be lazy
Addiction from being busy is an advanced version of being lazy. We are obsessed with doing something. The more occupied we are, the more we distract from thoughts about life and death. When we are constantly busy with something either important or not we avoid meeting life. We keep at a safe and comfortable distance from those questions that are sometimes difficult to consider: Did we choose our career correctly? Do we spend enough time with our kids? Does our life make sense?
To be busy is a choice. Each of us has deadlines, projects and different tasks, but we have freedom as well: either become addicted from doing something, being busy or lazy or just watch how we are getting all that bunch of things done. This is a choice. And the ability to make this choice is the consequence of clear mind development, mind that is free from the addiction to being busy. Next time, when you feel yourself too busy, pause for a while and watch: What keeps you in this state? Is it worth that? Perhaps, you should let something go? Is your mind busy this way naturally or does it just pretend to?
Multitasking = concentration problems
Just because we cant keep from doing it. Advanced technologies facilitate multiple task completion, making it very easy and simple. Smartphones became similar to a multi-tool, Swiss knife. They are able to do anything. Perhaps, there is no task nowadays that cant be fulfilled with a mobile app.
In this condition, it is difficult to resist the temptation not to take advantage from the free time we managed to get thanks to the smart gadget. For example, to listen to music or to text friends on our way in the bus or underground. Or like Facebook or VK posts sitting with your sweetheart in the café. What if somebody has written something important and you are not tuned?
It should be mentioned that our brain does like this state of things. As appears, when we submerge into multitasking, our brain releases dopamine. In fact, such a situation evokes a major physiological reward mechanism because you are getting so much done simultaneously. Besides, our attention is easily drawn with something new, bright, sparkling. We resemble magpies in this regard. That’s why our brain rewards us with a portion of dopamine each time when we minimize a working document to check our inbox. And when we have new emails there, the reward turns to be even more generous. And we get addicted very quickly.
Earl Miller, a scientist from Massachusetts neurological Institute, points out that our brain is built in such a way that we are able to focus on a single thing at a time only. What many people used to regard as multitasking is actually fast switching attention from one task to another.
Multitasking people find it difficult to collect their thoughts, to filter out information they dont need all that decreases our performance. Testees in the University of London demonstrated IQ drop while completing several tasks simultaneously. It is terrible to realize that this rate was almost equal to the rate of people who undersleep regularly or smoke marijuana.
In their researches, scientists from the University of Sussex scanned brains of people using several devices at a time, for example, texting a message while watching TV. As appeared, frequent employment of gadgets instantly reduces the density of the grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex in the brain. This area coordinates the function of cognition and emotional control in humans.
In any case, multitasking is not an excellent skill worth mentioning in your CV but rather a bad habit you should get rid off.
Multitasking makes you more tired, too. You spend more energy to switch from one task to another, while you spend less energy to focus on something. Thats why people who schedule their time to pay more attention to work proper and not to doing many things at once, will manage not only to get more things done but will be less tired as well. (The Organized Mind, author Daniel J. Levitin).
Being busy and bustle.
It is the prefrontal brain area is activated when you are getting several things done at the same time. In fact, it does not deal with two tasks at once but just swiftly switches from one to another. While you are simultaneously writing an email, checking your working schedule or listen to the voice messages on the phone, the prefrontal cortex in your brain is quickly shifting your attention from your PC to notepad, then to the phone and then to the PC again. This speedy activity is fed by dopamine, a hormone from the adrenalin family. Multitasking gives us confidence in being smart and gives us a feeling that we manage to get more done. Our manager works well and we feel alive!
While working on several tasks at once what you are not doing? You fail to enter the state of serene gazing, you dont enjoy outdoors, you dont share your time with your dearest ones. However, this activity stimulates serotonin release — the chemical substance in the brain that responds for the sense of satisfaction and controls adrenaline release. The prefrontal cortex has multiple serotonin and dopamine receptors. This brain area is activated through meditation the quintessence of steady concentration.
Why should you get to several jobs at once then if it reduces your performance? Well, perhaps, doing several very simple things at once, we do become more productive. A person hardly takes dishes from the washer worse if they are speaking over the phone at the same time.
And what happens when we are dealing with more complicated tasks using computers and telephones?
The most probable answer is:
Multitasking provokes the spike of a matter similar to adrenaline dopamine that makes you vibrant and active as if you managed to do more in less time indeed. Conscious multitasking strategically employs more or less intensive triggers. Lucy Jo Palladino describes it in detail in her book Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload.
Multitasking is good in its time. When your manager is not busy much, additional stimulation as several simultaneous actions would be beneficial. With much load, affected by dopamine, you would not take care to restore the balance of chemical elements during a serotonin pause and you would not only become less effective.
Brain links responsible for steady concentration, get loose and with time, it would take more efforts to make yourself focus on an issue or learn something new without stress. Constantly dispersed attention, switches from one thing to another distract us from completing a major task. What is more, with time, most people become no longer able to fix their attention on something for an extended period of time.