Jan 6, 2023Liked by Cari Donaldson

I have been craving just this! What steps are you taking to re-train your brain and body? That’s where I’m at a loss.

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I found something called the "low dopamine morning" on, of all places, Instagram. The concept is basically this- our reptile brain is programmed to continue to seek dopamine from the first source it got it from each day. So if our first hit came from the phone, our brain will keep going back to the phone over and over during the day to keep getting that sweet, sweet dopamine.

However, if we get our first dopamine hit from a less intense source- say, by getting up and completing a task like unloading the dishwasher, our brain says, "Okay cool. We're getting dopamine from task completion. Let's do more."

I can't attest to any scientific veracity in regards to this concept. What I can attest to is my personal experience over the last week. Here's what I've done:

set alarm for 6:30. Immediately get up.

Bible study for 30 minutes (first task)

Some sort of dippy exercise video on YouTube for 15 minutes (I prefer to get my exercise from walking, but it's been raining all week. Second task)

Shower (third task)

Dress down to shoes (fourth task. down to shoes makes me feel more put together.)

Hair and makeup (fifth task)

Then I go downstairs, make Ken's lunch for the day, and tidy up anything not put away from last night. (sixth task)

By now, it's been at least an hour I've been up, so I drink a glass of this gross carrot juice, THEN allow myself a cup of coffee (delaying caffeine was another suggestion for the low dopamine morning routine)

At this point, I've completed six tasks that usually loom over me all day, and it's not even 8:30. I feel so great, I keep on going (I found some daily checklist thing I've followed, which usually checklists make me feel SO OVERWHELMED but with the morning successes, it's manageable). I allow myself to check my phone once Ken's left for work (around 10). I set a 10 minute timer. Most days I've found I don't even want to check my phone. It's seriously magic.

Today, however, it went off the rails because I sat down to write this essay in the morning, before I'd usually have screen time. I figured all my chores were done, what could it hurt, but I've found myself coming back to the computer over and over today, to check for responses and emails and general scrolling. Clearly I need to figure out how to appropriately work in writing time in my day, because I really do love the outlet.

Anyway, your mileage may vary, but I really think there's a lot of value in shielding ourselves from screen time for as long as possible each day. If you try it, I can't wait to hear your results!

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Jan 7, 2023Liked by Cari Donaldson

Interesting! That all makes lots of sense. One year for Lent I made the resolution to wait to look at my phone until after my spiritual reading (which usually only happens after kids are settled and basic chores are completed) and that brought a lot of peace! Why did I stop doing that?!

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Happy Epiphany! I never thought of ordinary time as a gift before, just the boring green parts of the liturgical wheel from the kids' catechesis, but you're absolutely right-- what a roller coaster we'd be on without it! Gosh, I might even take down the Christmas tree this month just to simplify (I like to say we leave it up until Candlemas, but in reality it's gone far beyond that out of laziness & wanting to keep up the pretty lights during the dark season).

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