May 5, 2024

The Dopamine Rush and HIITing Your Sweet Spot


We’re all well acquainted with the music-infused dopamine rush…When “Spicy Margarita” comes on over the speakers and it’s being pumped through our veins. Our hearts start thumping and we’re magically inspired to skip, pump, and shake our bodies – like no one is watching. It’s a full-throttle endorphin and dopamine party.

While most people wait for a wedding as an excuse to enjoy a feel-good, drug-infused dance party, Mojo friends are lucky enough to enjoy the rush on a weekly basis – without the alcohol.

People unfamiliar with our workout, and dislike exercise, may groan, “Yeah, right”. But if you’ve ever felt that delicious high-octane rush during a workout, you know exactly what I am talking about. There is a scientific reason for that feel-good sensation and it’s pretty fascinating. Understanding how it works and how to harness it safely is the magic key to living your healthiest and happiest life. 

What is the difference between endorphins and dopamine?
Endorphins and dopamine are both chemicals in your body that play a role in mood and motivation, but they work in different ways:

    • Endorphins are hormones that act as natural painkillers that produce feelings of pleasure and well-being in response to pain or stress. They are our in-the-moment response to cope with a situation.

    • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in the brain’s reward system. It motivates us to seek out pleasurable experiences and reinforces behaviors that lead to rewards. Dopamine also plays a role in learning, memory, movement, and regulation of emotions. It’s the “drug” that provides the afterglow or motivation to repeat a pleasurable experience.

How dopamine pushes and helps us in wonderful ways.
Exhibit A – Mojo Assistant, Gema Arredondo (in blue)
Our Mojo Crew from left: Michael, Gema, Jenn, Laura, Deena and Haidee

Gema has been Mojo-ing with us since 2015, and has been an assistant instructor since 2020. As someone who is more reserved, being the center of attention is a bit out of her comfort zone. Add in the feat of memorizing and leading 18 routines of someone else’s choreography, in front of 25 strong women, it is not for sissies!

Last Saturday, Laura and I were out of town, so Gema was kind enough to lead class. Though she had done it before, she admitted to me that it makes her really anxious and nervous. When I told her that we could cancel class, Gema adamantly responded, “No. The reason I like to do it, is I know that I will be so glad and proud of myself afterward. I love that feeling.” (You GO, GF!)

When I texted Gema after class to see how it went, she said, “It was awesome. And people helped me do much more with their attitude and love. Mojo ladies are great. We are a family.” (Music to my ears!!!)

The dopamine fix Gema received was not just about getting a great workout. The mental high also came from the class camaraderie, the sense of achievement from learning, leading, and performing the routines, and the gratitude she feels for being able to help others in the process. The depth of this experience is chock full of dopamine advantages – and the benefits are infinite.

Some might think challenging yourself voluntarily is a stress that should be avoided. As in Gema’s case, a well-timed dopamine fix can have a number of mental and emotional benefits. 

  • Motivation and Focus: Dopamine plays a key role in motivation and getting things done. A dopamine hit can increase your focus and drive to complete tasks.
  • Learning and Memory: Dopamine is involved in the learning and memory process. When you experience something rewarding, dopamine reinforces the memory, making it more likely you’ll remember it.
  • Mood and Happiness: Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical because it contributes to feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure.
  • Reward System: Dopamine helps regulate your reward system. A dopamine fix can be a great way to feel good after a challenging task or achieving a goal.

However, it’s important to remember that moderation is key. While a dopamine fix can be beneficial, constantly chasing those highs can lead to problems like addiction and neglecting important responsibilities.

Finding Balance: The Downside of Chasing the High

While dopamine is a powerful motivator, it’s important to find balance. 
Here’s why:
A dopamine trap describes a situation where certain activities or substances trigger the release of dopamine in your brain, creating a cycle of seeking pleasure and reward…to a fault.

The Dopamine Trap: When we engage in activities that trigger dopamine release, like social media use, sugary foods, or video games, our brain starts associating them with pleasure. This creates a loop where we crave the dopamine hit and keep going back to those activities, even if they become negative in excess.  

Signs you might be in a dopamine trap:

Constant Craving: You feel a strong urge to engage in the activity despite negative consequences.
Neglecting Responsibilities: Important tasks fall by the wayside to make time for the dopamine-releasing activity.
Loss of Interest: Activities you used to enjoy become less appealing.
If you suspect you’re caught in a dopamine trap, there are ways to break free. Here is a resource to get you started: 

With the expertise of marketing technology, the biggest dopamine traps tend to include social scrolling and online shopping. 

Are you in a dopamine trap? Here are some tips to help get it under control

  • Identify your triggers: Recognize what puts you in the mindless scrolling or shopping zone. Is it boredom, stress, certain times of day, or specific apps? Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them or have a plan to deal with them.
  • Plan activities:  Have a list of healthy, engaging activities ready to go when the urge to scroll or shop strikes. This could be reading, exercise, spending time with loved ones, working on a hobby, or taking a relaxing bath.
  • Reward yourself differently:  Rewire your reward system!  Set goals and reward yourself for completing them with something that gives you long-term satisfaction, like a completed project or a visit to a museum, instead of a quick hit of dopamine from shopping or scrolling.
  • Make it difficult to engage:  For excessive shopping, consider unsubscribing from marketing emails, unfollowing tempting accounts on social media, or even deleting shopping apps from your phone. If it’s social media scrolling, turn off notifications
  • Seek professional help:  If you find yourself struggling to break free from a dopamine trap on your own, a therapist can teach you coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with compulsive behaviors.
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