Dr. Anna Lembke: Dopamine Nation - Finding Balance In The Age Of Indulgence (And The Secret To Life In One Quote)


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“The body is a powerful instrument, and we often forget about it.”

Listeners get ready for a powerful, impactful, thought-provoking show with Dr. Anna Lambke, the author of the sensational best-selling book Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence. I love how this conversation flowed so easily and comfortably through a variety of topics, especially starting out by talking about athletes and how the nature of addiction can permeate even what seems to be the healthy, fit part of the population, and especially how we’re all now vulnerable to all manner of dopamine seeking/dopamine triggering temptations. This is because, as you’ll hear in this show, the world has transformed from a place of scarcity to “a place of overwhelming abundance.” From drugs to food to news to gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, and even tweeting, there has been a massive increase in the numbers, variety, and potency of highly rewarding stimuli—a staggering increase that Dr. Lembke finds extremely concerning and seriously harmful. She even refers to smartphones as, “Modern-day hypodermic needle[s], delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation.”

During this episode, I call attention to a quote from Dr. Lembke that could be the secret to leading a rich, meaningful, and fulfilling life. She’ll detail the idea in the show, but here you go to consider for now: The routine things you do in daily life can take on epic proportions, but it doesn't mean you have to get to the top of the mountain. This idea reminded me a lot of a famous Martin Luther King quote, one that you’ll hear me share during this episode: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

You’ll hear about Dr. Lembke’s experience with patients that had extreme and shocking addictions and also realize that all of us, every day, are also in this highly vulnerable situation, thanks to the inexorable progress of society and technology to the point where everything is easy and we can get instant gratification all day long. You’ll also learn about the importance of achieving a neurochemical balance in your brain and how to stay out of that downward spiral into addiction from excessive dopamine seeking behavior. I highly encourage you to pick up her book Dopamine Nation—there are just so many great tips in there for whatever level you’re striving to improve as a person, and I love her recommendation for embarking on a detox process lasting at least 30 days and how that can be the secret to rebalancing your brain, and I think you will too.

Dr. Anna Lembke is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, and the author of the best-selling book Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.


The smartphone is today’s hypodermic needle delivering digital dopamine. [01:20]

Should we allow ourselves to get excited about things? Are the highs and lows good for you? [05:20]

Dopamine is triggered when we enumerate things rather than looking at the process. [09:24]

After you win the gold, what is next? The consumption of sports even as a spectator is very much vulnerable to this problem of addiction. [11:37]

The point is that we all have the same mental circuitry that gets us to instinctively approach pleasure and avoid pain. [15:00]

How to we navigate that balance of existing in competitive, modern culture? [17:36]

What’s amazing about our phone screens is that the screen itself is reinforcing. [23:27]

It is hard to imagine the world we grew up in with no phones and internet when we look at what today’s youth are living with. [27:09]

The routine things that you do in daily life can take on epic proportions, but it doesn't mean you have to get to the top of the mountain. [29:56]

We need to convey the message to young people to not try to find the grandiose thing you need to do but, instead look at your life as it is and whatever hand you’ve been dealt, make a positive difference every day. [32:24]

We need to recognize that our vulnerability to primitive signals, is part of the solution. [36:10]

We need to do intermittent fasting with our devices in order to narrow the window in which we are engaged. [39:46]

We are constantly commandeered to keep connected. It starts with awareness. In this addictogenic world, how do unhook ourselves from video games, for example? [41:10]

With repeated exposure to the reinforcing drug or behavior, the response gets weaker and shorter. To reset from the addiction, it seems that 30 days is the magic number. [46:03]

The progression to addiction is exactly the same whether you’re dealing with a drug that you ingest or you’re dealing with a behavior like gambling or video games. [48:04]

Are there genetic vulnerabilities with addictions? [49:50]

How is radical honesty involved in this story? [52:14]


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