Residency Mindset Journal / November 2021 : Keys on the Path to Well-being 🔑🚪

Table of Contents:

I. Mindset: 🔑🚪 
     A. Confronting reality with a mindset of acceptance and compassion = the path to healing, growth, and well-being.
     B. Triad of healthy discomfort, reality, and well-being
II. A Note on Dopamine:  ⬆️ 😍 ⬇️
     A. Speaking of a balanced reality...

I. Mindset: 🔑🚪

The desire for perfection or for a kind of romanticized end result, rather than the appreciation of gradual growth through practice, is the desire to avoid reality. One could say that desire and reality-avoidance go hand in hand 👯‍♀️ . And it's very important that we see this.

When we look into the roots of our desire for perfection, we see the expectation of a state that we know isn't possible. Yet, mentally and emotionally we tie ourselves to these impossibilities because they provide us with the necessary cover to avoid the true motivators of our lives. In other words, they get us high 🎃 . To be conscious of these true motivators creates a sense of dissonance that our minds simply reject unconsciously. The unconscious process is based on the foundational goal of the operating system, which is to avoid discomfort, even when this avoidance is causing the discomfort itself!

When we lack the acceptance of things as they are, we will unconsciously distort reality as a justification mechanism. The consistent avoidance of healthy discomfort will replace areas of perceived reality with narratives that justify the avoidance. The easiest way to convince ourselves to avoid healthy discomfort is to not believe these practices are needed or beneficial to begin with. It's kind of genius! As much as it's important to recognize our potential for transformation, it's equally important that we recognize our own potential to prevent it. To deny our potential to prevent our own growth is to fall into ideology. 

Personal narrative, or the story we repeat to ourselves consistently enough to be assumed, is a potential storehouse for self-limiting delusion. It's not that narrative/story is inherently negative, but that it's an effective tool for propaganda (and self-propaganda). When narrative is tied to strong emotions, it doesn't even have to make sense to be motivating. And this is a very important key 🔑. The false narratives that limit our sense of well-being will be tied to strong emotions that cover the true feelings that we're avoiding and that are likely so buried we don't realize they're there 👻 . 

Becoming aware of these narratives by calming, resting, and embracing healthy discomfort, is a precondition for healing and a method for controlling ideological impulses. Noise in the mind (stories, worries, fears, resentments, etc.) raises our baseline of discomfort and causes us to misperceive reality, ie. not see our lives as based on cause and effect. We want to get to a place where at least most of the time we're happy to not escape and to appreciate things as they are. We can do this when we approach this process with patience, resolve, and compassion. 

Extended periods of trauma-based suffering also disconnect a person's physiology from reality, not just one's thoughts or ideas. In order to balance our minds, we have to also balance our physiology. Healthy discomfort practices are a great tool here. Well-being isn't based on one single thing, but a multitude of factors that contribute to an overall experience of life. Each facet of well-being is a direction for practice and evolution. We're coming at this thing from all sides people! 

More than anything, it's important to keep returning to this 🔺 connection between healthy discomfort, reality, and well-being. Healthy discomfort practices raise our tolerance overall so we're prepared for periods of stress. Interestingly, healthy discomfort becomes a tool for increasing our sense of genuine comfort (well-being). By raising our tolerance, we prime our minds and bodies to experience a greater ceiling of peace, gratitude, and joy.  

In a way, we have to continually tune our minds to see that the effects of our lives result from tangible causes. When our narrative is deceptive, it can be used to ignore aspects of reality that contradict the presupposed ideology/story that brings temporary comfort and purpose. Here we find another key 🔑 : deception is tied to the temporary comfort we get from the story itself. When the narrative is used to justify temporary emotional highs, we end up misperceiving our own agency and what truly makes us feel better. The more we perceive reality, the more we're able to be the cause of favorable effects. Agency is fuel for a value-based lifestyle.

Residency Mindset is about approaching life based on the connection between well-being and cause/effect, which can be experienced the more we practice and the more we re-tune our minds/physiologies. When we consistently avoid our pain, fear, and healthy discomforts, we drift farther away from reality and from the understanding that we have agency. The farther away we get, the less we understand and perceive this process. We're interpreting, distorting, confronting, and avoiding aspects of reality at all times. We want less avoidance and more healing! When avoidance is amplifying our suffering, we're left with no choice but confrontation. ⚔️

II. A Note on Dopamine  ⬆️ 😍 ⬇️

In preparation for these journals and to make sure we keep evolving our approach to Residency Mindset, we do our research about topics that relate to well-being. Recently, we transcribed the notes of an Andrew Huberman podcast on dopamine that had so much in common with our own thoughts that we decided to include brief segments below! Whereas we usually focus on more experience-based elements of well-being, this information about dopamine adds another facet that's worth thinking about.

Controlling Your Dopamine For Motivation, Focus, and Satisfaction / Huberman Lab Podcast by Andrew Huberman


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that lies at the heart of all addictions and all high-seeking impulses. The perception of one's well-being, as well as one's sense of drive and motivation, is often relative to dopamine levels in a given moment. 

Dopamine isn't just about the experience of pleasure but acts as the universal currency of seeking things that will provide short-term pleasure. The dopamine that we feel and experience at any given time is based on what our baseline levels are, and what our circumstances are causing us to feel. The more our dopamine is peaked, the more dopamine drop we will experience. And when dopamine is peaked too often, our brain balances these peaks with chronic lowness. 

There are 2 sides to our experience of pleasure - the high and the low, or the feeling of wanting to avoid pain. These two sides exist in an interrelated balance in which too much experience of pleasure will make pleasure more difficult to experience in the long term. 


🔑  The key isn't in being able to define what Dopamine is, but in being able to perceive the influence of our patterns and choices on the way that we feel. 

🔑  When you think about it, all of our patterns (especially our addictions) are based on a perceived reward system. We choose to continue these patterns based on our expectations of what these choices will lead to. When our levels are out of balance, we're no longer able to perceive the cause/effect connections between our choices and our sense of well-being. In other words, we become disconnected from reality.  

🔑  One way to implement these ideas is by becoming more aware of how often we make choices for short-term highs over long-term well-being. This kind of retuning is a practice, not an end result! Small improvements make a lot of difference.  

🔑  Make sure dopamine peaks aren't being sought too often. When exciting activities are pursued too often, our baseline experience of these experiences drops. Instead, we want to practice the art of not practicing too much. To put it another way, we want to tune our minds to only seeking highs when they're appropriate and when we've put in the work first!