Dopamine undermines the joy of the everyday

Reward is dangerous

The English philosopher John Locke famously said that 'Reward and punishment are the only motives to a rational creature'. And from the gold stars we give to our children, to the rewards we administer to ourselves everyday, and the religious stories about paradise after death, we typically see reward as central to our lives. But rewards can be psychologically damaging, addictive and cause a dopamine imbalance in our brain argues world-leading Stanford psychiatrist and author of Dopamine Nation, Anna Lembke. We need to learn to be content with absorbing experience in the here and now and living in the present moment.


Modern life is increasingly organized around the many small rewards we administer to ourselves throughout the day, whether in pursuit of pleasure or to avoid pain. Indeed it seems to me that self-rewards have become the way we demarcate lived time: First-thing-in-the morning smartphone texts and the little hit of dopamine they provide, followed by

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