We all need motivation.

And, crudely, we all get it from REWARD. Which for many of us, means food.

Flashback to yesterday: 
4-year-old with shoes on: “Are you coming for the picnic mumma?”
Me (Sitting at computer): “Sadly not. I have to go to the supermarket.”
4-year-old: You should come! You DESERVE it! Take a break from your work!”

I don’t know where she got that ‘you deserve it’ line, but it’s something I think a lot.

“I deserve something. And it’s probably a medal. But possibly only a chocolate thingy.”

But something. Just for all of it – not because I’m great or anything, on the contrary, I do everything about 60%. But because there’s a lot of life in day, and I do my best to keep up.

We all give out a lot. No wonder we feel like something should come back in. Responsibility adds up. Being productive has a price. 

Homeschooling, putting meals out and clearing them away, and the crumbs, (the crumbs, people!), and hugs and tears, and chains back on bikes, and employment, and shopping, and phoning my parents (I know, what a saint I am!), and more food, and more bits on the floor (what are all these bits?), and rages (mainly theirs, mine on certain dates), and arbitrations, and books back into bookcases, and all the stuff that crawls across every surface, that I heap into yellow buckets to sort out later.

My lockdown bucket list - a bucket full of miscellaneous items that I've cleared from a kitchen counterMy lockdown bucket list: No it’s not learning the ukulele or getting really bastard fit (sorry to swear but my friend said that on maternity leave and I’ve loved the phrase ever since). Nah, it turns out my bucket list is a mess that accumulates anywhere flat. This bucket was full. It’s photographed here once I’d emptied it down to the last impossible miscellany where I just lost the will. Told you, I’m a 60% kinda gal.

Honestly, just looking at the jumble makes my head scramble and want to eat something sweet. 

I’m not really such a martyr. I love parenting. I’m having a great lockdown, comparatively! I get to leave the house and look at the bluebells and take the kids on bike rides when they are mutinous.

And I accept it’s my karmic burden to pick up the socks. It’s just that deep down, there’s a part of me that’s counting up the small sacrifices, the acts of duty, the givings, and thinking ‘what do I get?’, and ‘how will I get through the evening without a drink?’.

Sugar. Usually, the answer is sugar. 

And that’s because sugar and motivation and reward are very, very much tangled together. Culturally (cake to say ‘thank you’, lollies for good boys and girls, etc). But also biologically. Scientifically.

I’m talking about dopamine. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – messenger – that motivates you to take action and makes you want to do that same action again when you get a reward (pleasure). It’s about survival (caveman see berry – move to pick berry – eat berry, yum – want another berry).

If you haven’t dipped your toe in the neuroscience of our brain’s reward circuitry before (Ha! that mixed metaphor conjures an image of a yogi sticking their toe in their own ear), go ahead and have a read of this neat lil’ article, or this one.

Don’t be scared of science, it’s all very simple and readable really. It helps you to understand why sugar is rumoured to be addictive (proven in rats, but there are market forces against the proving of it in humans).

If you understand that sugar is addictive, and that dopamine is the motivation chemical, you’ll understand a lot.

For example:

  • That you may experience a severe lack of motivation when you stop eating sugar = depressive break-up feelings.
  • That the desire for sugar is created by consuming sugar. Like, you don’t want a cigarette if you aren’t a smoker, but if you smoked a cigarette, you’ll probably want another at some point. Smoking makes you want to smoke. Eating chocolate makes you want to eat chocolate again, same time the next day.
  • That artificial things like sucrose and cocaine that do not satiate like a natural reward, so they will overwork your metabolism and will get you craving.
  • That your reward responses are conditioned, and can therefore be adapted (yay!)
  • That exercise is good, because it creates dopamine, which gives you that energised motivated feeling, a virtuous circle.

All fascinating infos!

I’m going to talk about dopamine more in my Facebook ‘live’ this week, on Wednesday morning in the Sensational Eaters FB group, so if you’re not a member yet, come over and learn some more. The video will be there for you, even after the event. 

Oh heavens! I forgot to tell you what I use as a reward instead of chocolate! Honestly, it’s not a ploy to get you to read to the end. I actually forgot. 

A hot water bottle. I just love hot water bottles. I think a hot-water bottle is my favourite non-human thing. Even in summer. I feel so, so satisfied, so comforted, so relaxed, so hugged when I have a hot-water bottle.

What do you use for reward, if not choc?

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