Leverage dopamine for better marketing

Show notes

Did you know that you can make staying consistent in your marketing a whole lot easier if you understand how your dopamine works? You'll get practical advice on what sustains your dopamine and how to utilize this powerful hormone (a.k.a the molecule of motivation) to show up in your marketing.

Hey friends! 

If you’re new here, you might not know that I’m a huge nerd when it comes to health, wellbeing, nutrition – and of course psychology and self development. 

So, recently I’ve been kind of obsessing over how dopamine affects us and how we can really utilize this powerful hormone. I’ve listened to every podcast episode that Huberman has on the topic and really been diving into the matter to explore how it best can be used for marketing. 

If you’re not familiar with Andrew Huberman, Ph.D.; he  is a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the department of neurobiology and by courtesy, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine. 

So, dopamine, as Dr. Huberman explains it, is the molecule of motivation. He also says that “it can enhance our depth of focus and lower our threshold for taking action toward specific goals. “ 

Simply explained; when our dopamine levels are elevated, we tend to focus our attention on outward goals — for example the things we want to achieve in our business; and we feel motivated to pursue them. As Dr. Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the chief of the Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford explains;  “Dopamine is about wanting, not about having,” 

On the other hand; serotonin is associated with feelings of well-being about what we already have. Dopamine and serotonin, of course, do other things too, but for the sake of utilizing our hormones for business and marketing, this is where I’ll focus. 

Dr. Huberman goes on to say; “It is hard to overstate how much dopamine levels shape our perception of life, our emotions, and how capable we perceive ourselves to be — when dopamine levels are low, we feel unmotivated, derive less pleasure from pursuits and feel physically tired.”


3 Ways to Create Our Reality

In coaching, we tend to focus predominantly on how our thoughts shape our reality the so called “top-down”. But as neuroscientists have discovered; there are two more ways in which we experience and shape the world around us. The three are namely:

  • Bottom-Up: biological or physiological determinants of brain health and include genes, hormones, the immune system, nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.
  • Outside-In: social and environmental factors, stress, life events, education, current circumstances, and family background.
  • Top-Down: thoughts, emotions, mindset, and belief systems.

Source: Dr. Sarah Mckay

So as you can see, we really need to account for our own biology when it comes to achieving our goals. This is why I called this podcast and my program “Holistic Marketing” – because when we use an integrative and holistic approach, we get to work WITH our humanity and not against it. When we work with it, it’s more sustainable, impactful – and fun even!

Now, coming back to dopamine in marketing; what we need to really understand is that dopamine is a finite resource – AND it is renewable. One of the things I see a lot of coaches struggling with is to stay motivated. After the thrill of discovering the mind blowing transformations coaching can bring, after they’ve done their certifications and they start getting into a rhythm of trying to sell their services (and unfortunately, more often than not; quite unsuccessfully)… motivation fades. There’s nothing new happening, there is no dopamine spikes from their work anymore. So, a lot of coaches start buffering with learning – like listening to a ton of podcasts and scrolling on Instagram to get those dopamine hits again. 

Managing Dopamine to Sustain Motivation

Here’s the good thing about your amazing, mystical and genius body; You can MANAGE dopamine to sustain motivation! I’ve collected a few of the tips that Huberman and others suggests for doing this;

First, one of the most fascinatying things that Dr. Huberman says about dopamine is that: “We have a baseline of dopamine, and it can spike or drop based on various actions, compounds we ingest or even our thoughts. Our baseline dopamine levels are influenced by many factors, including genetics, behaviors, sleep, nutrition and the level of dopamine you experienced on previous days. It is critically important to maintain sufficient levels of baseline dopamine to sustain day-to-day motivation. We don’t want the baseline too low or too high.”

The last part there I find so interesting. Especially if we were to set it up against philosophies like “The Secret” or what Abraham Hicks is all about. Those focus on; “the more you feel something the more you get of it” – and while there’s definitely truth to that; when it comes to motivation and dopamine (the molecule of motivation), we need to manage it so that it doesn’t run too high – and I’ll get back to this in a second;  

Here are Huberman’s top 5 tips for managing healthy a baseline of dopamine:

  1. Viewing early morning sunlight for 10-30 minutes daily. (Don’t wear sunglasses for this, and don’t stare at the sun). This causes the release of dopamine. If done consistently, it will also increase levels of gene expression for certain dopamine receptors
  2. Eat tyrosine-rich foods: For meat eaters; red meat or hard fermented cheese is great. For vegetarians like myself; nuts, firm tofu, lentils, black beans, pumpkin seeds and wild rice are good sources. Tyrosine is an amino acid and a building block of dopamine — a diet rich in tyrosine will sustain your body’s natural dopamine production.
  3. Avoid melatonin supplements, as these can decrease dopamine levels and can disrupt your normal sleep patterns
  4. Avoid viewing bright lights between 10 p.m.-4 a.m. This is essential, as it has been shown to activate a brain region called the habenula and drastically reduce the amount of circulating dopamine in your system. If you must view light at these times, make it very dim. 
  5. Ingest caffeine in the form of coffee, tea or whatever form you prefer. This will cause a mild increase in dopamine but also increases the availability of dopamine receptors, so your body is more sensitive to circulating dopamine. It’s recommended to avoid caffeine after 2 p.m.

I’ll also add one that Dave Asprey , “The Father of Biohacking” recently spoke about; instead of doing ice baths or cold showers, apparently it’s just as effective to put your face in ice water – as most of the nerves and receptors that are affected by cold exposure is located here. This is known to increase baseline dopamine for hours dramatically.

How to Manage Dopamine Peaks

As Dr. Huberman says; “Success breeds success” is true, but if you don’t manage the dopamine associated with the pursuit and your wins, your dopamine baseline and the dopamine you experience from reaching milestones will start to diminish over time, and you’ll feel far less satisfaction from everything”

This is what made me dive into the rabbit hole of dopamine. I was thinking that, if I can really understand this, then I’d be much better equipped to help my clients to achieve their goals. 

 Decreasing levels of dopamine and hence motivation over time is a common problem. If it wasn’t; everyone would probably hit their new years resolutions every year and ace every goal they ever set for themselves. BUT, my friends; there are ways to overcome or even avoid this dopamine depletion altogether.

Here’s what Huberman discovered through his research: 

You can leverage the power of dopamine released by reaching milestones to increase ongoing motivation by:

  1. Use (Randomly) an Intermittent Reward Timing (RIRT). This is the most powerful schedule for dopamine release and staying motivated. According to Huberman, it works 100% of the time – and it’s what the casinos use to take people’s money. The key is to celebrate your wins, but do not celebrate every win. When you succeed in reaching a milestone, sometimes enjoy that; other times (at random), just keep going. 

Huberman argues that, even better, is associating “winning” with the effort process itself. I can’t remember if I’ve published the episode on process goals yet, but if I haven’t – stay tuned! It’s GOLD! According to Huberman, this is the holy grail of dopamine management for success. It won’t make you dull or unhappy; it will make everything easier and more pleasurable, without the peaks and valleys of dopamine that external-reward-driven people experience, and you’ll obtain all the external rewards anyway.

  1. Remember that Dopamine is Subjective. The brain does not know external rewards — no dopamine is dripped in your brain — it only knows the associations of events with internal chemical (in this case, dopamine) release. The prefrontal cortex (the executive control portion of your brain) is part of the dopamine pathway and provides subjective, top-down control (a “belief effect”) for motivation levels. Telling yourself you are moving toward your goals is a huge stimulator of dopamine release — and under your control.

This is why I love helping my clients tracking their progress. An example of how this works is what’s called a progress bar. Linkedin found that when they implemented this indication of how far along people were from completing their profile, the amount of people who went all the way increased dramatically.

  1. Spotlighting. Dopamine interacts with the visual system. Dr. Emily Balcetis, a professor of psychology at New York University (NYU) and author of “Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World”, explains how physically focusing your visual attention on a specific point (or “spotlight”) will help maintain focus during bouts of goal work. When you focus on a particular point, a medley of neurochemicals (dopamine, epinephrine and others) are recruited and put you into a state of readiness and clear focus.
  2. Don’t Layer Too Many Sources of Dopamine. Huberman goes on to say that “When we layer too many sources of dopamine (e.g., preworkout energy drinks, plus music, plus friends/social connections, plus nootropics also known as “smart drugs,” etc.), it can increase dopamine and our energy and motivate us to work hard toward a goal”. But stacking all these dopamine-triggering sources causes a crash afterward, ultimately undermining our longer-term motivation and continued drive. The key is to change it up.

This got me super interested in how we best utilize this amazing hormone for what we want to create for ourselves. And how to stay motivated in our marketing – long term. 

  1. Non-Sleep-Deep-Rest (NSDR): Huberman explains that when we use up all of our dopamine, it’ll take exponentially longer to restore than if we use some dopamine and then restore it before we’re empty. So, the old “push through” can be counterproductive. One practice he mentions is to do non-sleep-deep-rest, which is getting yourself to a sleep-like state for a short period of time lets the brain rest intensely. This can help you feel restored to take on the rest of your day. He argues that; “Non-sleep deep rest is a powerful tool that can allow you to control the relaxation state of your nervous system and your overall state of mind. It takes advantage of the fact that specific forms of breathing place us into a state of deep relaxation by slowing our heart rate down.”

Sleep.com suggests we think about NSDR as “Silicon Valley’s answer to the ‘siesta,’” — and Google CEO Sundar Pichai swears by it, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal. But it’s more of an umbrella to describe techniques such as hypnosis or yoga Nidra, a yoga discipline in which an instructor guides you through a calming routine focused on relaxation, reflection, and breathing work while you’re laying down.

Bottom line is that by having short pockets of deep rest during the day, will reset our system and hormones so that we can enjoy the benefits they bring to our wellbeing, motivation and productivity. And as Huberman says; “by understanding and supporting your dopamine baseline and what spikes dopamine, you can learn to regulate yours for persistent goal-directed motivation. You don’t need to do all of the above; it’s just for you to cherry pick and try what might work for you at various times. 


Managing Dopamine for Creating Content

After I got familiar with this concept of dopamine being a finite resource during the course of a day, I have become A LOT more intentional about how much stimuli I allow to enter my space. Especially before I create my own content. So, instead of jumping straight into listening to a podcats on my morning walk with my dog, I’ll walk in silence and be very present. I have experienced a notable increase in ideas coming to me and content pouring out of me. So, I invite you to play with this as well and see how much more motivated and consistent you get from implementing this into your own life. 

Alrighty coaches, that’s it for today! If you enjoyed what I brought to you in this episode, I would be so grateful if you would rate my podcast and write a short review. 

Until next time; byeeee

xx Martine

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