“A Happiness key: Maintain something to be enthusiastic about. Small/frequent goals = Dopamine hits that propel success.” — Steve Maraboli
I challenged myself today to pick up markers and draw something. After seeing Julie Fei-Fan Balzer working her 100 Day Face Challenge, I figured I might try drawing a face. Here it is. Face #1. Not good. Not good at all. But then I never claimed to be a good artist. Just a person who likes to create something every now and then.
I must admit. I didn’t try very hard. But I did try, which is a huge step! Normally, the idea of locating and then using art supplies is exhausting to me. It has to do mostly with the mental exhaustion and the physical effort involved, so I typically don’t follow through.
But today was a success. I gave myself five minutes and the rule that I couldn’t look at the page for the initial draw. Just some unseen scribbles. Afterwards I went back and added color and a thicker black line. Unruly self portrait? Could be. I’m just thrilled I actually picked up a pad of paper and some markers and drew something, no matter that the end result was a blonde Frankenstein.
Which leads me to ask: have you challenged yourself at all today? Did you attempt something that you were nervous about? Did you complete a small goal? I learned in therapy this week how important it is for those of us that are low dopamine to set very small goals and push ourselves to complete them, no matter how hard or unpleasant the work is. Once we actually meet our goal, it increases our dopamine just a bit. Then, as we finish another goal, and another goal, dopamine continues to increase. It’s like building a reserve. The more we achieve our goals and have little successes, the more we continue to follow through. We gain more momentum, we do a little more, we make gains, and the better we feel. I was warned, however, that this method needs to be monitored carefully for people with Bipolar, as too much dopamine can thrust a person into hypomania or mania. (Keep up with that mood journal). But for those of us with absolutely no drive, who hang mostly in the depressed spectrum, we most likely don’t have to fear too much of a mood upswing as we are simply attempting to jumpstart our dead dopamine battery.
Examples of a very small goal may be:
- washing off your makeup every night
- reading one page of an inspirational book before bed
- picking your dirty clothes off the floor every day
- a five minute daily drawing
- flossing daily (I can’t be the only person guilty of skipping this from time to time!)
- making your bed in the morning
- taking a walk around the block at least five days a week
And trust me. I get how difficult this can be. Especially if you are in a depression. But once the depression starts to lift, even just a bit, this gets a easier to do.
Everyone’s personal goals are obviously going to be different. But just changing up one little thing can give us the momentum to do a bit more and feel good about ourselves for actually doing it. And that personal pat on the back does wonders for our brain chemistry.
So, promise to give it a try. Let’s challenge ourselves just a bit today. Make your bed. Draw that weird face. And give your dopamine a boost. Your brain will thank you.