Can you rewire your reward centres to be more mindful?
This is the question I ended up asking myself today, 9 days after signing up for Mindfulness in May.
You see, I’m finding it TOUGH to make 10 minutes to meditate each day.
And this got me thinking – what’s so HARD about sitting still for 10 minutes? Why can’t I seem to do it?
It’s easy to blame the distraction of busy life. You know:
- your email pinging on your phone (at work AND home),
- those non-stop notifications,
- the Facebook invitations you feel you have to respond to,
- frequent telemarketing calls,
- those Netflix-binges,
- Malcolm Turnbull leaving you recorded messages (don’t get me started on that – ok there’s nothing fun about that either!).
In other words, it’s hard to be mindful when you’re always connected. It’s a massive distraction.
While you are distracted, busy or overwhelmed with all this stuff, your important basic survival activities – like looking after yourself, exercising, eating well – tend to fall by the wayside.
Then you get into this cycle of feeling stretched, grabbing convenience food and picking up some wine each night.
It seems logical to blame the busy-ness of life or technology for this terrible situation, but there’s actually more to this than meets the eye.
Why aren’t you simply finishing work earlier, or turning off your phone?
It’s All About Rewards
You probably know that neuroscience research illustrates that your brain is wired for rewards.
And those activities I mentioned above are just a few ways you might be rewarding yourself in any given moment.
You get rewards from:
- being helpful
- being responsive
- solving a problem
- people liking your Facebook posts
- people commenting positively (or even just responding) to your Facebook posts
- people giving you compliments
- using drugs
- using alcohol
- eating sugar
They give you pleasure, a feeling of value, a sense of purpose, or external validation.
Hey, the only reason I pay at the supermarket with a debit card is so I can see the word APPROVED on the EFTPOS screen.
Your brain responds to rewards by releasing dopamine, a chemical that is thought to remind you how and where to get those rewards, so you can keep getting them in future.
However, that craving for pleasure or reward can become more insistent, and end up as an addiction. Read more here.
If you’re struggling with this stuff, it’s time to rewire your reward centres.
Rewire Your Reward Centres
While walking on the beach recently, I noticed birds chirping, wind in the trees, cars going past, waves crashing on the beach.
I became acutely aware that it’s a sensory smorgasbord out there, and I decided that those things are way more rewarding, calming and mindful for me than plugged in all the time.
You know, that’s actually the secret to getting out of that busy, mindless spiral.
Simply find some alternative, healthier rewards and pleasures, relish them, celebrate them and build them into a new, healthier daily routine.
With practice, your ability to be mindful and present will return, you’ll be calmer, and you’ll feel happier.
You CAN actually rewire your reward centres. All you need to do is start.
And maybe, just maybe, you will look after yourself a little better.
What makes you feel rewarded? Let me know in the comments below.
Chief Inspiration Coach
I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.