Orchestrating your own brain chemistry

Started by SueC, October 08, 2020, 01:36:11

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This is a thread for becoming more aware of and learning to direct your own brain chemistry in ways that help you to live your life according to your ideals and goals, instead of having it lived for you by your impulses / distractions - something that's relevant to everyone.

A nice "springboard" for this - from the same person who gave us a super exposition of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

We did a little compare/contrast with our own lives - what's challenging, what works well etc.  I think it's incredibly helpful that, as people in our late 40s, we're from a generation that didn't grow up surrounded by IT devices, and therefore that was never "normal" for us.  When all that stuff started to snowball, we were able to make decisions about that from two steps back, rather than having it foisted on us by default.  Therefore, the only portable device from which we access the Internet is a large-size laptop - I don't even have a so-called smartphone (just a basic mobile phone that does calls and sms, and I don't carry it on me except if I'm travelling away from home - at home it sits on the counter like a landline).  Brett reluctantly has a low-level smartphone, but doesn't use it to access Internet except occasionally, to check the weather radar, mostly.  Neither of us do social media; a couple of Internet forums and sending emails are our only forms of regular online interaction.  We don't like short-form, non-immersive, shallow stuff online.

We don't have sound alerts for incoming emails and we don't subscribe to instant alerts - we check our email once a day (business), or when we feel like writing to someone.  The very idea of going around with a device which interrupts what I do all the time is like a circle of hell to me, and I won't do it - it's like an electronic ball-and-chain-cum-poker machine.

If I fall into the Internet (happens occasionally), I take the laptop upstairs and leave it there while I get on with the rest of my day.  On the desktop, this is unlikely to happen because I don't like sitting on a chair for extended periods of time (and that's a nice circuit breaker, compared to getting comfortable on the sofa with a laptop).

We're generally happy with our recreational Internet management, but it does have to be consciously managed so it doesn't interfere excessively with healthy brain chemistry.  It's a tool for us; we don't want it to start driving us, so we have strategies to stop it from taking over.

But could we do that as (comparatively) easily if we'd grown up with all this stuff in our pockets?  I think it would be so much harder.  I particularly loathe the recent fashion in Western Australia for having all students, from the time they start school, on iPads - we're creating dopamine addicts from the time they're five, at school... one of the reasons I stopped teaching.  It's so sad that the hands-on, creative, low-technology childhood is now being prevented even in mainstream schooling, which was once a comparative refuge from this stuff.

Of course, IT is only one aspect of dopamine wrangling, but it's one we don't have to struggle with much personally.  Having said that, there's plenty of other things that can start affecting your brain chemistry adversely and make things difficult.  I've discussed some of those before in a post on another thread.

For now, I'm going to leave it there, but this thread is intended as a space for people to share resources and strategies that have been successful for them for the orchestration of their own lives, and to talk about pitfalls if they want to.

And here's something useful that came in by email this morning:


At the moment, many of us are finding ourselves working from home more than usual. For those of us who are prone to procrastination, being at home can make staying on task even more challenging.

Below are six suggestions for outwitting procrastination. (They don't just apply to work - these methods can also help if you fall victim to procrastination in any area of life, such as housework or creative projects).

1. One way to break paralysis around an unpleasant task is to introduce an even more unpleasant task, by comparison to which the first task starts to seem more appealing.

2. Work offline as much as possible; the internet is - plainly - the enemy.

3. Use an egg-timer: work for fifteen minutes and not a moment more. If that doesn't help, try five minutes. Humiliate yourself into finding a unit of time you can stick to.

4. Use starkly accurate working titles for your efforts: 'First Rubbish Version'; 'Second Marginally Less Rubbish Version'. Don't expect it to be right for a long time. If ever.

5. Break a task into 100 sections. Note what percentage is done. For a 1,500-word report, every sentence is pretty much 1%.

6. Take a shower, go for a drive. We often have our best ideas when theoretically we're not supposed to be working at all.

That's from the School of Life.   :smth023  I love their first point - I've never actively thought of a "worse task" before and may give this a shot...  :beaming-face
SueC is time travelling


Well I'm 100% certain this won't work for me (and probably many others):

Quote from: undefinedOne way to break paralysis around an unpleasant task is to introduce an even more unpleasant task, by comparison to which the first task starts to seem more appealing.

I know myself, I'll just procrastinate both tasks until the very last minute. (Last-minute-pressure is normally a real good motivator!)

It doesn't touch me at all...


:lol: @Ulrich, it seems you're a very efficient sort of procrastinator!  ;)

For me, fear of last-minute pressure and all the preventable stress that involves is generally a good motivator.  Except if it's something I really, really don't want to do, in which case last-week or last-day pressure can be very - errrr - helpful to get it done.  For instance, I could have been doing our annual tax since July 1, but have I?  Well, a few weeks ago I did do a half-day of spreadsheets to get started, which is always the hardest part - like getting in cold water.  But it's all due by October 31, which, unbelievably, is now creeping up rapidly, so I'm gonna have to start prioritising it... and this when the weather is wonderful and the garden needs to be planted with a plethora of seedlings from the greenhouse...  I suppose I'll have to timetable it:  Tax during peak UV... ;)

By the way, have you heard that idea of, "Start work each day by eating a frog?"  It's a humorous way of suggesting that if you get the very worst task out of the way each day first thing you start working, then the rest of your day is so much better - because you've already done the worst thing and now you're feeling good about that, rather than feeling bad because you still have to do it.  "Eat that frog" is code for "do that thing you really don't want to do!"  It's also a good way to prevent the accumulation of lots of "frogs" - or to deal with such an accumulation - if you've a pile of frogs, eat two first thing every morning, so to speak... that's something I heard a while back and started doing, and it has reduced my "frog pile" impressively.  Now I'm looking for a "frog" to eat most days. :)

This morning's frog is to finish clearing out the old brambles from last year's boysenberries - they're viciously prickly and even get through leather gloves, so I often use pliers to handle the free ends...  something I'd been putting off, but if we want berries this summer, I need to get rid of the old brambles and weeds, and tie the new brambles that are growing to the espalier wires.  When I've done that, I will reward myself by finishing that post on the recent live DVDs...

Since I love writing (high-dopamine activity for me), I use it as a reward for doing less attractive stuff.  Of course, I'm happy that writing yields good amounts of dopamine for me, because it's actually a productive activity compared to, for example, channel-surfing... The real trick is to connect up useful stuff to dopamine release in your own brain, and one way you can do that is to get good at stuff, and not to get "behind" etc.  Gardening isn't something I've naturally been keen to do, I'm relatively new to it, but because it's now associated in my mind with eating delicious produce from those labours, and spending time in the sun with birdsong and fresh air, it's becoming less of a "chore" for me, and more enjoyable.  Even weeding is so much easier when you've got a bunch of donkeys lined up behind the fence going, "Ooooh, can we have those please?"  :heart-eyes   

Also it helps that I have an iPod and can listen to podcasts and music at the same time - which I do about half the time.  Sometimes it's nice just to breathe and take in nature.  Other times, I want to have my brain on a different track while my hands are working.
SueC is time travelling


Quote from: SueC on October 09, 2020, 02:23:54By the way, have you heard that idea of, "Start work each day by eating a frog?"  It's a humorous way of suggesting that if you get the very worst task out of the way each day first thing you start working, then the rest of your day is so much better

Heard that ~10 years ago. Not for me. Each day has its chores or maybe even anvils around my neck... so what? I'm just trying to live my life without following too many rules others make for me. (Of course I have to pay tax, try not to break the law etc. We have so many rules and regulations, I don't need more of them for my private life...)

It was this guy from whom I heard it back then:
(He had this book "Simplify your life", he also did lectures based on it.)
It doesn't touch me at all...


Well, I see these things as suggestions and tools, and it is my choice to try them out or not.  I try the things that appeal to me, and if it works, it goes in the repertoire!  :)  And because of that, I don't feel as if I have millstones around my neck...

There's a difference between letting others direct your life, and choosing how to live it.  Working with the more difficult parts of me is like herding cats, so I like to pick up some ideas from other people who are also herding cats.  :lol:
SueC is time travelling