The Devil said

People have mistaken pleasure for happiness, blending the two distinct concepts and assuming they are synonymous. Let's make it clear, pleasure is not happiness.

Happiness = Contentment

Pleasure = Reward

There is one reward system for humans. Dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that transmits signals in the brain and other areas of the central nervous system. It plays a crucial role in several important functions in the body.

  1. Dopamine is crucial for the control of movement. Decreased dopamine levels are linked to motor symptoms in conditions like Parkinson's disease, characterized by tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with voluntary movements.
  2. Pleasure and reward. Dopamine is referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. When an individual engages in activities that lead to a pleasurable outcome, the brain releases dopamine. This positive reinforcement strengthens the connection between the behavior and the reward, making it more likely for the individual to repeat the behavior which leads to point 3 and 4.
  3. Motivation and Goal-Directed Behavior. Dopamine is involved in motivation and the drive to pursue goals. The anticipation of a reward or pleasurable experience can lead to increased dopamine release, motivating individuals to take actions that may lead to positive outcomes.
  4. Addiction and Pleasure. Many addictive substances, such as drugs of abuse, increase dopamine levels in the brain. This elevation in dopamine contributes to the pleasurable sensations associated with these substances. Over time, repeated exposure to high levels of dopamine can lead to changes in the brain's reward circuitry, leading to the development of addiction.

Dopamine is not only involved in the response to artificial rewards like drugs but also plays a crucial role in the processing of natural rewards, such as food, sex, and social interactions. Yes, when you consume food that you enjoy, it is dopamine. When engaging in activities that you enjoy, such as scrolling on social media, it is dopamine. Most things that evoke feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, which we can readily identify, are due to dopamine. How does it work?

  1. How much pleasure we feel is measured by the difference between the spike and the baseline
  2. When it increases, it will decrease by the same amount shortly after.
  3. Repeat of the same activity or food will produce diminishing dopamine spike over time. This leads to the need for increased stimulation to attain the same level of pleasure as before. Tolerance.

Ever wonder why your 'happiness' doesn't last? Where did your 'happiness' go? That delightful meal you savored—where did that 'happiness' go? The new game you were so enthralled with at the beginning, but gradually found less enjoyable—where did that 'happiness' go? Mindlessly scrolling social media looking for something, but don’t know what you are looking for?

You are looking for the next dopamine spike.

All forms of pleasure derived from food or activities are similar—they are fleeting, and we inevitably develop a tolerance to them, leading to an endless quest for the next dopamine rush. The dopamine system in our brain hardwired us to greed and unlimited-wants, or to phrase it more accurately, the way our brain functions makes it easy for external factors to influence us to greed, to want more and more.

Fortunately, we are in control of our brain. Or are we?

Note: You may not relate to the term 'unlimited wants'. Instead, think in terms of, there are always more delicious food out there, more interesting places to travel to and explore, action films or video games can always get more visually stimulating, social media will always have new and more interesting content out there, TV series can always trigger stronger emotional response in you. There is always more.

Dopamine is essential for us to function as humans. But are you in control of this system? Is it a system that serves you or perhaps it is a system that controls you instead, with you merely serving the system?

Imagine feeling stressed, sad, or simply feeling down and the solution you turn to in order to cope with these emotions is dopamine—a temporary and diminishing source of relief. An endless and dangerous spiral awaits.

 

P.S. Check out Serotonin VS Dopamine.  

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