August 2, 2020

H&N circuit: The anti of dopamine circuit that no one talks about

While writing the previous two blogs about how companies use dopamine to control us and how to do dopamine detox konmari style, I was exploring and going deeper into the subject of dopamine. I found this interesting bit.

H&N circuit: The anti of dopamine circuit that no one talks about

A lot of content about addiction on the internet talks about dopamine; how excess of it is bad, why and how you can avoid it but a lot of it seems to be narrow visioned because they never seem to zoom out and have a look at the complete picture.

Well, I stumbled upon an interesting book called "The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long" from which I discovered about how our behaviour boils down to the balance of two circuits in our brain. Those circuits are dopamine circuit which is responsible for worrying, predicting and wanting more in the future, and H&N(Here and Now) circuit which is responsible for contentment with what you have right now.

Why understanding H&N is important?

Why, indeed, is it necessary to summon trouble, – which must be endured soon enough when it has once arrived, or to anticipate trouble and ruin the present through fear of the future? It is indeed foolish to be unhappy now because you may be unhappy at some future time. - Seneca

Why be unhappy about something that you imagine might happen in the future and keep worrying about it? Well, that's the work of your brain's dopamine circuit. Dopamine circuit tries to predict all the future possibilities, it doesn't like prediction errors. But why? It might surprise you that, even though we humans have technologically advanced at an incredible pace, our brains are still very primitive. It has definitely changed since we were hunter- gatherers but slightly. In those times dopamine circuit helped us in the survival. So, our brain used to constantly think "What can happen next?", "Will we get the food?", "Will we be the food?" or "Will our kids survive?" but today if we look at the bigger picture of human evolution, we are living in one of the safest times regardless of your social media influenced opinion. And corporations know about it, so to exploit our dopamine circuit and make money they've turned all of those questions into "What will happen in the next episode in this TV show?", "Will I get the Supreme mask?", "Will I be left with only 150 likes on my new post on instagram like last time?", "Will I be able to grow my business by 50% this year?" and more such questions worrying about unnecessary stuff which is making you unhappy because you're constantly living in the future or in the past.

“It’s about making the future better than the present,” said Lieberman.

Present is so short that if you don't live it then you'll stay depressed about the past which you can't change and anxious about the future. That's where knowing about the working of H&N circuit helps.

How to trigger H&N circuit?

Highly dopaminergic people have pushed society forward—into the future. They are the inventors and artists, the mathematicians and the scientists. “They’re the inspired ones,” Lieberman said. “In a way, we kind of flatter them because they serve us so well.” People with strong H&N circuits are not as valuable to the economy; they’re of no use to the likes of the Department of Defense; but “they’re wonderfully valuable for their small communities,” Lieberman said.

You don't want to be me - Elon Musk

As a dopaminergic type myself, I see truth in that. I believe wanting more of anything whether it is money, success, possessions or whatever without any purpose is the characteristic of a virus not human. But I've come to realise that triggering the H&N circuit is simple and it requires you to do the creative activities which help you to connect with the present. There are so many underrated activities that one can do to connect with the present like creative writing. “I teach creative writing, and the first thing we do in my class is practice describing things,” Long said. “The writer has nothing to write about if the writer can’t be present. Living in the moment fills up that hunger in the imagination with materials that can be reorganized, manipulated, and formed into something new through the power of control dopamine.”

Any activity that you can start from scratch and work on it and see it in it's complete form is a rare privilege in the modern age of mass production. Wood work, creating music, sewing or creative writing fit perfectly in that. In fact the book talks about when construction workers were asked if they were happy or not with their lives then most of them were affirmative about that which is crazy because most of the people working in corporate world who are earning more than construction workers have way lower happiness. And when I thought about it, construction work is triggering H&N circuit. They all start from basic materials like steel and cement, witness the whole process and all of the buildings they end up creating are new and unique. Playing guitar and weight-lifting are two of my H&N triggering activities

The very first thing people who want to develop their H&N systems should do is to see if they can spend ten percent more of their day in the here and now—particularly when they are interacting with other people. - Daniel Z. Lieberman

That's it for this blogpost and if you feel that there are some of your habits that are highly optimised to intoxicate you with dopamine and you want to go through the detox, then I want you to participate in Stoic Human community. Go to the reddit discussion post for this blog post linked down below and comment there which detox are you going through or willing to go through and regularly share the updates. Let's help each other to stay on track.

Stay healthy, Stay safe.

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H&N circuit: The anti of dopamine circuit that no one talks about from r/StoicHuman