Movement Book Club: Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Anna Lembke

BUY THE BOOK: Order Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence


I first heard of the book Dopamine Nation when Dax Shepard had the author, Anna Lembke, on his podcast, “Armchair Expert” (Episode April 7, 2022). Anna, a psychiatrist and Stanford University professor, discussed with Dax and co-host Monica Padman the way our world is focused on addiction, and getting a hit of dopamine in whichever form you crave. As an educator I found it to be a fascinating conversation about the dangers of isolation and social media, and the way our society is getting less and less authentically connected, and more and more lonely and disconnected. I knew I had to dive into the book itself. 

In the book, Anna outlined the problem clearly; “We’re all running from pain. Some of us take pills. Some of us couch surf while binge-watching Netflix. Some of us read romance novels. We’ll do almost anything to distract ourselves from ourselves.” I found the book to be extremely scientific and research based, and yet the examples given are relatable and the reader is asked to reflect on their own lives. What distractions do I allow in my life? In what ways do I numb pain? 

I was left challenged by the book and the podcast alike. Anna Lembke brings up the idea that we can be so “druggified” by a wide variety of things—we are so surrounded by so many easy pleasures and are bombarding our reward pathway with too much dopamine. She goes on to say, “Because we’ve transformed the world from a place of scarcity to a place of overwhelming abundance: Drugs, food, news, gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, Tweeting …” and claims that the “smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation.”

“We are so surrounded by so many easy pleasures and are bombarding our reward pathway with too much dopamine.”

Screenshot from “Armchair Expert” (Episode April 7, 2022)

Anna masterfully peels back the layers of addiction and discusses the scientific impacts on our bodies, brains, and hormones with such chemicals that are meant to regulate our mood, but in excess actually make us forever wanting more. She shares with tremendous vulnerability her own addiction story and how it removed her from her truest values and desire to be a good mom and present in her job and life.  She shares how at its peak, her addiction drew her deeper and deeper to more isolation, more hidden behaviors and less derived pleasure from the addiction itself. Addiction grows and what once satisfies no longer does, and the devastating stories Anna shares from her psychiatry practice make clear that addiction can ruin every aspect of one’s life. 

“I urge you to find a way to immerse yourself fully in the life that you’ve been given.”


Throughout the book, Anna not only shares stories and science, but she also shares an anagram by way of discussing how to not be addicted to that which gets in the way of living life fully. She writes, “I urge you to find a way to immerse yourself fully in the life that you’ve been given. To stop running from whatever you’re trying to escape, and instead to stop, and turn, and face whatever it is. Then I dare you to walk toward it. In this way, the world may reveal itself to you as something magical and awe-inspiring that does not require escape. Instead, the world may become something worth paying attention to.” Isn’t that what we all want?

To not live a life where we doom-scroll to avoid boredom, and sneak eat to cope with stress, but rather a life lived with our eyes wide open, a life where we deal with our failings (and our addictions) with radical honesty and seeking to be freed from their chains. I am very grateful this book came across my path and the ways in which I have been challenged to live a balanced life, trusting that my body will balance itself. I highly recommend this book as an investment in your health journey. 


BUY THE BOOK: Order Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence

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