Dopamine and Anticipation

Here’s a dopamine hack I wish I knew about dopamine earlier!

When we open our phone and start scrolling, we’re not getting ‘dopamine hits’ with every scroll. We don't get dopamine from people, places, things or events, because dopamine is all about wanting, not having.

We get dopamine in anticipation of those things. The anticipation of seeing that person, the anticipation of where your new side hustle could take you, the anticipation of what we may see when we open this app. It’s a currency for movement that makes us reach for things in the external world.

Evolutionarily, it’s there to make us enjoy the hunt.

The excitement or anticipation of reward can increase dopamine firing by 30-40x, and the riskier the odds of success are, the more dopamine is produced (hence gambling).

So, when we open the app and see that first piece of content, our dopamine production has now reached its threshold. What keeps us scrolling is a combination of our continuous pursuit of dopamine and serotonin, the chemical we produce when we want to stay in and enjoy the moment.

So, because you now know that dopamine is related to anticipation, novelty, and wanting something in the external world, it’s pretty easy to hack this by delaying gratification.

If your dopamine is urging you to pick up your phone and check notifications, know that checking, you’re ending dopamine production.

By delaying it, you may extend its action. Delaying it will also make it that much more enjoyable when you do open your phone.