How are you holding up? We’ve had a sunny weekend, I did some planks and push-ups in a small, almost-empty park, which was nice. But instead of really enjoying myself, I’ve been doing what I seem to be best at: ruminating, this time about addiction and why I’m prone to it (I made a pretty extensive video about it, on “addicts brains” and ways to overcome it).
🤔 What I’ve been thinking about
Being stuck at home, most of us probably sit in front of a screen for most of our waking hours. Well, I know I am, and it’s become apparent to me how bad I am at “deep work”, how difficult it is for me to NOT browse YouTube or news platforms to distract myself. Ok, we’re in a scary time, but that’s no excuse.
Procrastinating like this usually makes me feel guilty, and this self-loathing then often leads to more procrastination, as new research shows – it’s a vicious circle, and it sucks.
I’ve recently admitted to myself: I’m an addict! I’m addicted to distraction!
Because it is clearly interfering with my productivity and my overall happiness, I decided to research this topic a bit and found some equally fascinating and scary stuff which might be relevant to you as well: Many of us are addicted to one or several things, to varying degrees (be it love, gaming, porn, sex, drugs, sugar, caffeine, gambling, work or overthinking). Here are some key take-aways:
- Why do we click on YouTube, our Twitter feed or porn sites? Because it gives us a dopamine hit (we get it when we see something novel and surprising. This also applies to enraging stuff or catastrophies)
- 5 minutes later, you’lll want to get that same dopamine hit and check the news site again. These platforms are specifically designed to make you addicted (you scroll down endlessly and eventually see something that gives you a little hit of dopamine – this is exactly why Casinos are so addictive: Because you sometimes randomly win. It’s called intermittent reinforcement and makes our brain crave more and more of it. Congrats, you’re “hooked“. You’ve rewired your brain to click on this site if you’re trying to work or feel at unease. Plus, we carry our distraction devices aka smartphones with us all day every day.
- Some people (like me, unfortunately) are more susceptible to this because we have a lack of dopamine (and chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine) in our brains by default (new research indicates that this is basically how ADHD works). Gabor Mate emphasizes how childhood trauma is often times a root cause in addiction as well. My addictive behavior is me trying to escape my own mind. Basically my brain constantly tells me “something’s wrong, I feel discomfort, I don’t like being in my own skin. Why don’t you do something to get rid of that unpleasant feeling?!”
Ok, that sounds terrible – but how can we break the cycle?
I don’t pretend it’s easy (else there’d be almost no drug addicts and homeless people), and I can’t say I got rid of my addictive mind. But what helped me quite a bit was reading the Craving Mind, and understand how our addictions typically work:
- It starts with a Stimulus (e.g. I feel at unease sitting at my desk and trying to work)
- My subsequent Behavior (I take my Smartphone to check the Twitter newsfeed)
- The Outcome of that behavior (I start scrolling through the feed for 10 minutes, open other apps and might remain distracted for much longer, and feel anxious and guilty afterwards).
We can break the cycle at any of those three “stages”
Stimulus: Sometimes the stimulus is reasonably easy to fix: It might be your phone or sugary food laying around in front of you (just put it out of sight). We should also have rules to limit our news / social media consumption to maybe once a day (set aside a specific time for that) or eliminate it altogether.
But for people like me, the stimulus is usually that we feel anxious / there’s something out of balance with our brain chemistry, which is more difficult to resolve. Sleeping enough, working out and good nutrition should be the go-to approach to make you more resilient. Then there’s drugs. Even though I don’t like relying on them and there are side effects, pills like Adderall, Modafinil (and probably SRIs and Antidepressants too) seem to have a significant effect (it’s quite eye-opening how one small pill can make your cravings for distractions, food or sex disappear. Not because I’m suddenly super smart or drugged out: It’s because that constant “something is wrong” feeling is gone, which made me resort to these coping behaviors in the first place. Have I been playing life on hard mode all this time?)
Behavior: After reducing the obvious triggers for our addictive behaviors and taking good care of ourselves, the healthiest approach is mindfully replacing our negative “addiction-behaviors” with healthy ones (e.g., stand up and take a walk when you feel the urge to read the Twitter feed)
- What works best when you’re becoming overwhelmed is to ground yourself by going into your body: Become aware of what your body feels like in this moment. Take conscious, deep breaths. Feel your feet touching the ground. Look outside at a tree. If you can, take a short walk, ideally in nature.
Outcome: Our brains seem to forget that the outcome of our addictive behavior actually sucks, most of the time. Next time you’re browsing through Instagram or YouTube to distract yourself, ask yourself (and write it down, maybe): Do I actually enjoy this? Is this really entertaining, do I get smarter, is this good for my life?
Once again, if this is interesting to you, here’s my recent video on addiction with much more detail.
😴 What helped me find calm this week
Intentional ASMR Picks:
Here’s some great ASMR that I’ve enjoyed:
- I forgot how much I like Miss Chloe‘s voice and videos. She’s British and has been doing ASMR for a while, always lovely, like this crinkling or this wooden trigger video
- Heather Feather doing ASMR is a godsend in these times. Here’s her new “sweetest ASMR“
- When we’re at OGs of ASMR, I remembered the channel ASMR requests. Unfortunately she doesn’t seem to upload anymore, but she was one of the first “stars” and had amazing roleplays like this futuristic Space Travel Agent or this extremely popular Esthetician Visit
- Here’s another cool South Korean channel I found: Judy asmr. Here’s her showing some stuff she bought in Europe (it’s in Korean, though).
💎 Hidden gem ASMR Channel of the week:
It’s been a while since I adored a creator as much as Moonlight Cottage ASMR: Her roleplays are superb, I have no idea where she’s got all her vintage props from. You might have seen this roleplay as an old-school Apothecary, but her other videos are great, too. I first couldn’t identify her accent, but it seems she’s from France. Check her out, I’m sure she’ll be big very soon (she deserves it)!
Unintentional ASMR Picks:
- This professor gives one of the most sleep-inducing Math lectures about Entropy (he mumbles, writes confusing stuff on the blackboard and has a very strong French accent – I still like it:)
- I’ve started watching the show, so this caught my eye: Here’s Howard Baskin speaking out against Netflix’s and Joe Exotic, and he has a remarkably nice voice
- Here’s a relaxing ramble on old Matrox Graphic Cards
- A soothing Star Wars Light Saber review by a British guy
💜 What I’ve enjoyed
As music seems to be the best medicine to keep me sane, I’ve rewatched “Live from Daryl’s House” on YouTube (Daryl Hall is one part of the legendary duo Hall & Oates and a musical genius. He’s an excellent songwriter, pianist, guitarist, vocalist). In this show, he jams with amazing guests, mostly his own songs. Here are my favorites:
- “One On One” with Cee Lo Green
- “Wait for Me” with Pat Monahan of Train
- “Nothing But A Miracle” with/by Diane Birch (why isn’t she a star?)
- “No Can Do” with Rumer (one of the sweetest female voices I’ve ever heard)
Disclaimer: a few Amazon links above are Affiliation links