Choose your addiction
Today, we’ll provide a healthier alternative to addiction.
People who get addicted often need highs and lows in life. A lot of people become addicted because without enough challenges in their lives, they get bored. They feel restless and constantly seek stimulation, which addiction usually provides in their lives.
I realized I’m the same, all my friends describe me in extremes - and I’ve always been like that.
So expecting that people like me will suddenly become calm, and be able to moderate addictive behaviors and keep balance is impossible.
I felt guilty about it because I should be able to keep balance but then I stumbled upon this:
Give up guilt over high-stimulus-seeking behavior. Understand that you are drawn to intense stimuli. Try to choose them wisely, rather than brooding over the “bad” ones.
—Driven to Distraction
What if I chose my addiction?
We’ve described it here in the posts before: it takes time to start having fun working, getting bored to be more productive. We’ve talked about it before, but without the connection to addiction and without precision.
When people stop getting cheap dopamine in the form of endless entertainment on screens, we see one common effect:
almost everyone becomes more creative, productive, and engaged in their day-to-day life.
For me, work was suddenly more fun to the point that it would start pushing out other things in my life. My brain needs challenges - if it doesn’t get them in games or on the Internet, it will seek them elsewhere - for example at work.
When we choose our addiction, it can be much healthier for our lives.
What if you decide to make work, your addiction, for example.
Society doesn't frown upon it.
Is it good? Well, professionally and financially yes.
In comparison to addictions like playing video games, it’s generally easier to stop working. We have social obligations that pull us away from work. Also, you usually have to be well-rested to do good work, so you prioritize sleep. Work is also less captivating than games so I usually go to bed on time. When I played games, I could get into it even super-tired, forget about sleep, and game long into the night.
Of course, work addiction is not usually described that way, but rather as passion.
How to choose your addiction
The easiest "healthy" addiction that comes to mind is work. If your work is creative, it’s much easier to immerse in and feel productive.
If you think that your kind of work can’t be addicting - you have to find an alternative. Learn new skills and you will discover something fun.
Creative endeavors: arts and crafts music,...
Sports: running, cycling, rock climbign, BJJ.
Meditation: if people stumble upon the meditation high, they will start chasing it again.
Pain addiction: adrenaline sports, extreme races, cold water immersion (this one is controversial because people can endanger their lives chasing better and better highs)
For more options, check out this article.
Ideally, if it’s beneficial for you in the long term, it might be a “good” choice of addiction.
How to become addicted to the right thing
1. All other high-dopamine stimuli should be cut off or heavily restricted.
If you keep playing video games or surfing the Internet for 8 hours a day, it’s almost impossible to develop a passion (or addiction) for anything else.
2. The new endeavor must be fun or challenging.
If it’s dead-boring and you can’t make it more challenging - it won’t be possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is that what we find fun is subjective. For most people, doing research is boring, but for some scientists like, for example, Andrew Huberman, it’s addictive.
Huberman has said that he loves doing research:
“I feel flooded with feeling great and I want more.”
So long as you feel like you're on the right path, whatever that may mean for you, and you're making progress, you will get a powerful dopamine reward.
I think I’m wired in a similar way. Being on the right path, pursuing my curiosity, seeking out novel ideas,... that’s what I find addicting.
If you think about it, I sit behind a screen, read, think, and type - that might sound boring - but on the contrary - when I do this, I have the time of my life because when I start developing new ideas I see it as a challenge I need to overcome. When you’re able to articulate your thoughts, they start making sense and you see it can have an effect on others, it’s addictive. Additionally, when you talk about the ideas in person, you can express your thoughts clearly, which also makes you feel good.
As you can see, even such activity as doing research and writing can be thrilling for certain people. This just means that we shouldn’t disregard activities beforehand. When focus on something and get better at it, we can become surprised at what interests us.
So remember: stop feeling guilty about having the need to feel stimulated
Instead, choose deliberately what is going to stimulate you.
This isn’t a manifesto for “hard work”, we don’t think one has to derive their self-worth from their productivity.
Also, this isn’t a manifesto for hustle culture, if you can not get addicted to anything and keep progressing in life, great for you. I couldn’t, and because of the nature of the cheap dopamine entertainment, plenty of people feel the same.
I’m trying to become a more balanced person by building mindfulness, the ability to regulate emotions, etc. However, it’s a work in progress and I still need something to do for 12-14 hours every day so I don’t go crazy.