Overstimulation Is Ruining Your Life

Overstimulation is the reason why we find it hard to focus on anything important and difficult in our lives.

Rather than doing things that we’re passionate about, we’d rather lay in our beds and scroll through social media. Or we’d rather play video games all day until our eyes dry up. We do this because we’re anticipating to feel that sense of excitement from discovering something new and controversial.

There are a lot of blogs and videos that talk about how to deal with overstimulation, but so few actually talk about why overstimulation makes it difficult to focus on doing hard things in the first place.

Like why is it so hard to muster up the motivation to get out there and achieve great things in our lives?

Why is it so hard to push through obstacles, but so easy to fall back to our old habits even though we know they’re not good for us?

Why is it that we’re facing depression and anxiety in record numbers even though we’re living in the most prosperous time in human history?

We’re constantly overstimulated all the time

The biggest culprit to our overstimulated world problems is the fact that we no longer have to work hard to do anything anymore.

There’s no point in going on dates and meeting people when we can casually swipe left or right on a Friday night. Or when we can get any kind of food delivered to us hot and fresh right in front of our doorstep.

As a result, our senses are becoming overstimulated with artificial rewards all the time.

How dopamine encourages overstimulation

Our overstimulated life comes from the fact that our brains release a cocktail of feel-good chemicals called dopamine all the time.

When we see a new notification on social media and we start to sweat from the anticipation of what the notification can be, that’s dopamine.

For the most part in human history, dopamine has been around since the days of our hunter and gatherer ancestors.

But instead of smartphones and junk food, our ancestors felt a rush of dopamine in different ways. They felt it every time they got a fresh kill of deer, or discovered a bush full of delicious berries.

In essence, their brains released dopamine every time they achieved things that required intense effort and focus.

Why is overstimulation ruining us?

We face a problem of overstimulation because of the fact that we can tap into our dopamine reward system with very little effort.

If we feel bored, we can open up Instagram and find that we have three notifications waiting for us. If we get hungry, we can always reach for that delicious chocolate cake that’s sitting in our fridge.

We’ve essentially turned our dopamine reward system into a vending machine that’s available to us 24/7.

What’s scary about this is that we are training ourselves to see these activities as a necessity in our lives.

Our brains become addicted to the feeling of dopamine that it’ll do anything to get it, even at our expense.

Social media is overstimulating your brain

A good example of overstimulation is social media.

When your Instagram photo gets a like, your body gets a rush of dopamine that makes you feel good.

As you keep releasing dopamine, your brain motivates you to do other things like posting on Instagram Story to activate the chemicals again.

Eventually, you end up with a positive feedback loop where you’re no longer motivated by the joy of going on social media anymore. Instead, you go on to feed your need for dopamine.

In essence, you become a slave to your own dopamine system.

This consequentially hijacks your natural reward system. It tricks your brain into thinking that these activities will somehow maximize your chance of survival.

This dangerous behavior also sets up false expectations of what success should look like. We know that the road to success is full of failures and setbacks, that to achieve anything you need a certain willpower to delay gratification.

This is counterintuitive for our overstimulated brains because we expect to feel good right away.

When we don’t see the results that we want, we get frustrated and give up easily.

Quitting bad habits can lead to less overstimulation

In life, we seek these things that’ll stimulate us simply because we think they’ll make us happier.

Our vague notion of what happier means is what leads us to eat three Big Macs only to hate ourselves the next day, or binge watch on Netflix just to feel crappy for wasting a whole day.

What we can do to break out of our bad habits, instead, is to find contentment with what we already have.

Meditation is the answer to overstimulation

Meditation can help slow down your overstimulated brain so that you can focus on the present moment.

Oftentimes, we’re told that our job is to do the most that you can in this limited life that we have. We hear terms like yolo and justify doing some crazy but meaningless stuff. This is actually counterintuitive to how life works.

As Mark Manson once said, the most important things in life are often boring.

There’s nothing sexy about sitting home all day and babysitting your kids. You’d rather pull your eyes out or distract yourself with Youtube videos rather than teaching your kids how to ride a bike.

Later though you’ll realize that you get more satisfaction, feel more alive, when you participate more deeply in these boring moments.

Meditation can help you find your meaning to life

This means several things. First, it means that the things around you, whether it’s your kids, your wife, or your hobby, can provide you with enough happiness.

The Japanese call this concept Ikigai, which means a reason for being, or having a sense of meaning to life.

At first, you’ll feel restless having to deal with these “boring” things.

The more you practice being mindful, the better you’ll get over time.

Soon, you’ll begin to reprogram your mind to enjoy what’s already in front of you.

You can find Ikigai by simply focusing intensely on the things that matter to you right here, right now.

Less overstimulation means more energy

Second, it means that you can divert your attention from pointless things.

Once you realize that social media is nothing but an empty calorie for your mind, you’ll start to fill your days with things that truly matter.

Now you can read your book in peace without worrying about how many likes your photo has. You can focus on your kids or your spouse without diverting your attention to your phone all the time.

Once you realize that social media is harmful, you can start using your energy more effectively.

Things that can help you reset your overstimulated mind:

Originally published at http://peekingbuddha.com on October 4, 2020.

Writer, coffee enthusiast, tech geek, and occasional Korean cook.

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John Lim

John Lim

Writer, coffee enthusiast, tech geek, and occasional Korean cook.

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