This month has been full - full of adventure, joy, worry and grief. As I often say to my clients, we are human beings not robots; therefore, we may feel energized and joyful in one moment, then depleted or in the throes of grief the next. I am not immune to the ebb and flow of being human and, when regulated, find my life experiences coupled with my clinical background exactly what motivates me to be present and share with the Be Healthy Within community. There have been additional stressors this month that have pulled me out of my presence a little more and so my regulation practice has taken on a new twist. As I was searching for additional tools to feel grounded, I was reminded of the term “glimmers” originated by Deb Dana, clinician, author and expert on Polyvagal Theory. Glimmers refer to small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm. They are the counter to "triggers" which can increase disconnection and disregulation. Once I recalled this amazing concept, I began to direct my focus to my micro glimmers - the friend that texted to check in on me, the call from my mom, the excitement of my dogs when I walked in the room, the sun coming in through the blinds, the sturdiness of my feet on my morning run in the forest preserve and celebrating 25 years of marriage with my husband. I want to be clear, these glimmers did not eliminate all of my stressors; however, they helped me regulate my nervous system so I could be more clear to address them.
How can a practice like finding glimmers be so beneficial? Glimmers can help steady us and regulate our dopamine levels, known as the “feel-good” hormone. Dopamine is part of our reward system, which gives us a sense of pleasure and also aids in motivation and focus. Having the right amount of dopamine for your system is important as our brains are wired to restore balance. When dopamine is overly high it can increase stress and anxiety and cause difficulties in sleeping. Having low levels of dopamine can make you less motivated and excited about things. How can you balance your dopamine levels? Go inwards. Ask yourself what brings you joy? What helps you connect to your authentic self and thus supports a balanced body and mind? Can you look for glimmers in your life and see how they can support you?
In keeping with this month's theme of educating about dopamine, the pleasure hormone, read on for some tips and resources.
Andrew D. Huberman, a Harvard Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences, where he discusses controlling your dopamine for motivation, focus and satisfaction. He works to research the human brain and how it works, as well as how it can change through experience. His podcast on dopamine tells us just how important it really is. While expanding our knowledge of our dopamine levels, he focuses on explaining how dopamine plays a huge role in our drive, happiness, and overall well-being. Therefore, he points out that in order to live our most satisfactory lives, we must be able to understand and then control our dopamine levels. Evidently, we need to be the judge of what experiences and activities bring out healthy pleasure. As he mentions, “dopamine is the molecule that makes us look at things outside the boundaries of our skin, to be in pursuit of things.”
Check out his podcast to give it a listen!
Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist who is Chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, specializing in the opioid epidemic in the United States, is the author of Dopamine Nation. Her book discusses the crucial role dopamine plays in the brain’s reward systems, reiterating how important it is for our motivation. She also mentions how pleasure and pain are co-located, meaning they work like a balance. Therefore, it is important to keep this balance in check and be conscious of your control of dopamine. She continues to touch on the role dopamine has in addiction, so be sure to give it a read!
Be Healthy Within Blog
Hi, I'm Carolyn a clinical counselor, art therapist, health coach and mother of four. I am dedicated to promoting mental health awareness, fostering growth mindset and developing connections to self and others. I believe healthy living starts with the individual, which creates a ripple effect for others.