Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Dopamine Trap

Here is a list of things I do from time to time just because I feel like it:
Solve a Wordle puzzle and a Numberle puzzle.
Work on a Nonogram.
Play "Bricks 'n Balls" on our iPad.

There are many other things I could list but I am not listing them because they do not act as dopamine traps as far as I can tell.  A dopamine trap is a thing that will stop a person from getting stuff done.  It works by providing a schedule of dopamine releases.  The brain's default method of providing motivation to the experiencing being using it is to seek dopamine release, and it does an amazing amount of pattern recognition processing to find the things that cause dopamine to be released.

There are some rational foundations for my interest in some of the items in my list.  The puzzles in the first item work different parts of my brain and make for good practice.  Since they help keep me sharp, I indulge myself by playing them.  The nonogram works some important parts of my brain too, so that's also a justifiable indulgence.  There is one minor value related to brain health in the third item in my list, and that is the strategy development for getting enough points to get three stars.  I played the game for probably about 100 hours over the last five years before I realized that I should be using a strategy. Until then, it functioned only to relax my brain, and not even as well as taking a nap would have.

I wrote this to exorcise the time-wasting demon that I think of as "the dopamine trap."  My description of dopamine and how it relates to our brains is from memory and may be slightly inaccurate.  If you know better, please let me know!

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