Episode 3 A+A podcast: Dopamine and Business Alignment

Dopamine and business alignment is about looking after the basics as we create and grow our business.

Even though these things are basic, we can easily set them to the side and deprioritize. If you haven't found out already, you might find out in the future that they can create problems. Let's tackle this head on and, if you need to create a plan to improve the basics, I'm going to help you do that... So, let's get into some emotional theory.

What's happening when we have those moments where we're overreacting - or going into brain fog?

You know, when our brains just don't seem to be functioning as well as we would like them to. It's a state of overwhelm or like going into an extreme or high emotional response in relation to our business... That's why I'd like to talk about dopamine - and how we can use basic ways to look after ourselves to improve the dopamine levels in our body and our brain. Which then leads to our brains working better!


Let's understand the three parts of the emotional brain.

The first part is the reptilian brain which is to do with eating, sleeping and reproduction. It's also to do with the fight or flight response. The second part is the limbic system - this is the emotional centre of the brain. And the third part is the prefrontal cortex, this is the thinking brain. This is attention, decision-making and strategizing - all those areas you want to be in when you're working on your business. When you're figuring out how you're going to move forward, and when you're responding to problems and challenges and deciding how you want to grow your business.

Now, those overreactions... The prefrontal cortex and the limbic system just aren't communicating with each other very well.

We go into this reactive state and what's called an amygdala hijack. That's when we can have a more extreme reaction to something where under normal circumstances we'd just be able to work through it. We would be able to come up with a solution or we could put it into perspective, or just feel calm and relaxed about it. We might be like, "Oh, that wasn't great but I'm just going to take a break." When we're operating at our best, that's the kind of way we might respond.

What happens when we're not operating at our best?

When little things happen like... A client's cancelled, you have some unsubscribes or unfollows. You might post something and then you're like, "Oh, no one even responded to that." Or "I got this really minimal response." You might turn that into something - and then feel really bad about yourself. Someone might tell you you're too expensive and that sends you into a spiral. Or maybe you've got some tech issues that make you feel stressed in a negative way.

When we are overreacting to these small things, that might be a sign we've gone into an amygdala hijack.

Maybe we're not accessing the prefrontal cortex part of our brain as effectively as we might. How does this link to dopamine? Dopamine is a key fuel for the prefrontal cortex. This is the hormone that helps us to stay in that well-regulated state so that we can experience things and respond in a rational, well thought out kind of way.

What kinds of things help to increase our dopamine levels? There are three I'm going to talk about and they're so simple.

So simple BUT they're the things so many entrepreneurs - including myself - can notice gaps in. I can see the way they affect my ability to think clearly and rationally and to make great decisions and to feel balanced.

They are food, exercise, and sleep. Simple.

Let's go through each of these because I want you to do some reflection and notice how well you think you are looking after those really basic areas in your life. And any changes you might like to make, or any plans you might like to put in place for a busier time in your business, or when you're going through something. For example, a launch, or you just know for whatever reason you're going to be under more pressure.

How can you ensure you still get good nutrition, some exercise, and a good night's sleep?

Let's start with food. Think about how that is for you. Do you eat regular meals? Or do you tend to skip meals? Because that's something I've certainly seen with entrepreneurs over the years. It's really easy to get so busy and then just to skip lunch or to start snacking and then of course the tendency is to snack on the wrong things. Or, it comes toward dinner time and instead of stopping and preparing dinner and eating beautiful healthy food, you might just get takeaway. Now, of course if you do this once, it makes very little difference. You're not going to have any kind of really significant effects. But if this becomes a pattern, then it can start to have a detrimental effect. Certainly by the end of the day if you're starting to find that you're not reacting so well to things, you're finding it hard to think things through or you're taking way too long to do an activity that could be quite quick.

Maybe you're planning some content and you're just not getting anywhere with it. It might be time to think - have I been eating well?

Ask yourself: What kind of plans can I put in place? Now - and for busier periods. I'll give you two examples of things that I've done that helped. Hopefully these will spark different ideas for you. One thing I have done when I've gone through busy periods or having little children and not having a lot of time - I will have a green smoothie as my lunch. And I make sure it's got protein powder in it, avocado and nut butter. It has different supplement powders too so that even if I don't eat anything else during that lunch window, I know that I've had something that has good nutrition in it.

Planning ahead? Consider a meal delivery service to take the pressure off.

We've done this for a period of time - so we don't need to worry about preparing a really balanced meal for us. It just means we're not getting caught out where we might then just get take-away or might have eaten something less nutritious. Because all of a sudden it's gotten too late and it just feels like such a hassle to spend 30 or 40 minutes in the kitchen preparing something.

I would love you to think about what you can put in place for your own nutrition...

You'll notice I'm not specifying a specific kind of diet or any specific guidance. You know You. You know what foods nourish you and you can make a plan around what is going to work best for you. If you can see there's a gap, just spend a little time thinking about what might work for you so that you're getting adequate nutrition. That way your brain is nourished and you can make really great decisions throughout the day. And you know that green smoothie idea I thought that was so simple and basic? 

I was often finding by about five o'clock if my toddler was testy and tired and grouchy, I could feel very similarly...

But just putting in the green smoothie in the middle of the day, that diminished greatly. So, of course it would probably become a bit of a ping pong effect - where I was depleted and then couldn't respond in such a balanced way. So that's more of a family example, but of course we see it in our businesses as well. So, food was the first thing - and I'd add in drinks. Are you getting enough water? What other drinks are you having?

If you're finding you're having a tonne of coffee across the day really ask yourself: Is that the best thing for me?

You could think: Maybe if I am having too much coffee, what could I replace that with? It could be buying herbal teas that you actually like or finding other drinks like matcha or just something else that appeals to you that ensures you're getting hydrated across the day. So we've got food, exercise is the next thing.

Are you getting adequate exercise most days? 

There might be a day here and there where you can't get so much exercise, but are you getting the right kind of exercise for you and are you getting enough of it?

It may be something that you need to schedule. So again, I'm not going to specify obviously what kind of exercise you should be doing or how much - you need to decide that for yourself. Are you better when you scheduling classes? Are you better when you just get up and go for a long walk or for a run each morning? Is it better for you to use an app and work through an exercise routine using an app where you can do it at home and it's flexible? What actually works for you? What makes you feel good?

Because exercise creates lots of positive chemicals and hormones as you would know, but one of those is dopamine...

So it's going to help your prefrontal cortex to work more effectively so that you can make great decisions and feel really rational in your thinking and strategize across the day, across the week. And be able to do that in a more consistent way.

Finally, sleep. Are you getting that seven to eight hours? Of course, some people say they don't need to have as much as that. Because research seems to say that most people in fact do need seven to eight hours of sleep. So for someone who says, "I get by on just this small amount or whatever," the research says "It's actually only a very small percentage of people who do best on that. And if you're doing well on a small amount of sleep you might do better on a little bit more." Something to consider anyway.

Give yourself the best chance at a good night's sleep.

If you have very small children then your sleep might be disrupted and there may not be much you can do about that. However, you can go to bed earlier and give yourself the chance to get more sleep across the whole night, even if it ends up being broken. And you'll also be aware that research says that using technology before bed - in the hour before bed - affects your sleep (even if you don't feel like it does). A good idea is to put technology away, stop working, put your phone away for at least an hour before bed so that you have less access to a screen. But not just the actual screen as well as the stimulation, of course, so that you can get adequate rest.

I've been guilty, especially during a busy time in my business, of staying up late and working even to 11pm or 12am at night.

And then sleeping terribly and not being at my best the next day. It can be a really negative spiral. It feels really important to work, but then it has these negative consequences. And it's not a sustainable way to work.

Getting good rest helps your dopamine levels, helps your prefrontal cortex and helps you to have clarity of thinking.

Which helps us to perform at our best in our business! I would love to hear any insights you've had. Sometimes with those basics we're like, "Yeah, yeah, I know that." But "Am I doing it? Are there tweaks I can make right now and then can I observe the impact of those tweaks or maybe even solid changes on my wellbeing and on my mental state?"

Let's connect on my social media - visit my Instagram at Kerry Rowett or my Facebook page at Awaken Kinesiology.

If you enjoy the process of analysing where you are doing well in certain aspects of your business alignment and perhaps where you can make some changes, you might like to check out my book, Align + Attract.



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