I’ve read a lot of good books lately, but there’s one that’s been particularly paradigm-shifting, called The Hacking of the American Mind. The book explores, among other things, the meaning of pleasure and happiness, which are different on a brain chemistry level, because happiness is related to serotonin, and pleasure is related to dopamine.
I’m going to start oversimplifying like crazy right now, but basically anything you enjoy but that you could get addicted to (Twitter, sugar, video games) is producing dopamine. Anything you enjoy but cannot reasonably get addicted to (friendship, love, creative fulfillment) is producing serotonin. You need both, but in general we are a world of dopamine junkies, and many companies make it worse by exploiting the crap out of our weakness for it.
You know how in grade school they explained to you that when you do drugs, it damages your brain so that the next time you need even more of a “hit” to get high and eventually have to take the drug just to feel normal? Well, apparently it works the same way for all kinds of dopamine hits, and once the dopamine receptors in your brain are blown out by overuse, they don’t ever come back. That means most of us—me included, I’m sure—have permanently limited our very ability to feel pleasure.
That factoid is not TheBomb®, but the book is, because it provides a really strong motivation to do better—and a really interesting lens through which to view the screwed-up world.