The problem with our society: Too much "easy dopamine/adrenaline" and not enough oxytocin

There is no question that modern society has many advantages. Life is no longer nasty, brutish and short, and thanks to our modern lifestyle, we have comforts and luxuries unheard of only a generation or two ago.

Despite this however, people are struggling in modern societies with an apparent epidemic of stress, depression, anxiety and suicide…

One theory is that despite all the comforts of modern society, humans live under drastically different situations than that under which we originally lived under for millennia.

For millennia, human beings lived lives being connected to things which gave purpose, belonging, hope and meaning, such as living physically active lives, closely connected to people and nature. Whether by cause or effect, human brains are thus wired such that:
  • When we do physical exertion (e.g. hunting, gathering, farming), it gives our brain dopamine and adrenaline
  • When we have close connections with others such as through face-to-face and physical contact, it gives our brain oxytocin

In modern society, things have radically changed. Unlike the past, modern humans have many sources of “easy dopamine” such as:
  • The ever constant sensory stimulation from our technology (e.g. the internet, television, video games, recreational screens)
  • Modern processed foods that are laced with sugar, which are present apparently in 80% of foods found in a grocery store!

As a result, we are seeing a generation whose brains have gotten used to requiring easy dopamine/dopamine, and who struggle when they do not have that easy dopamine/adrenaline. As a result, our kids don't want to go outside, unlike a generation ago.

Worse, hours spent in front of a screen doesn't give our brains what we really need… We are a social species, and we are wired to require oxytocin, which comes from face-to-face contact and feeling deeply connected to others. Social media and screen time doesn't give that.

So ultimately, this helps us understand why so many kids struggle… Their brains are seduced by activities (e.g. screens) which give easy dopamine, but which doesn't give their brains what they really need, which is oxytocin.