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Coronavirus – the dopamine detox for students

13 May 2020

Taking a panormic view of the extra time that students have been landed with due to the coronavirus pandemic, Aditya Sharma, a Grade 11 student of Indian School Ghubra goes a step further in examining the effect of dopamine – the ‘happiness hormone’ – the excess of which can even turn fun into boredom. Here’s Aditya’s analysis:

In the twenty-first century, when the only existential threat to students seemed to be weak internet, the coronavirus has posed ironical problems. High schoolers who complained about lack of time, stand baffled in the face of a new, stronger rival – boredom. With the invisible enemy infiltrating our borders, students are forced to learn more than just social distancing. 

Time management has peaked in importance but it no longer means just designating a study schedule. The young minds must decide how and what to pack in their twenty-four-hour days while staying motivated and disciplined. With classes online and examinations postponed, who is to blame for the soaring lethargy in students – the virus, the internet, the education system, or something as primitively perceived as a hormone?

Dopamine is our body’s happiness hormone. When you crave that last bite of chocolate or perhaps more YouTube videos, it is really just dopamine that you are craving. As with most things that bring pleasure, dopamine also leaves one wanting more.  However, extended periods of high dopamine increase your body’s dopamine tolerance, making satisfaction longer to achieve. This vicious cycle can lead to both addiction and boredom. With higher dopamine tolerance, ‘fun’ activities are rendered ‘boring’. Essentially, dopamine is the body’s way of rewarding itself. But in the current unprecedented times, this poses a problem. Just as light and darkness form a symbiotic relationship, so do fun and boredom. When one exceeds the other, the thin line that differentiates them vanishes. Students are facing the repercussions of excess fun now, more than ever before. 

In the Zoom education system, and under no scope to leave their safe abodes, the proverb, ‘Excess of everything is bad’ resonates more than ever within students as anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure in pleasurable activities) begins to strike.

In other words, the dopamine cycle seems to have been refreshed. After plenty video game sessions and binge-watched shows, books have once again started to appeal to bored minds. Essentially, the coronavirus has been successful in doing what mothers have struggled to do since eternity. Learning a new skill like cooking or sewing now brings the same amount of dopamine rush as hours of video games to some.

This dopamine detox is essential for students as it opens up unforeseen opportunities. When curious minds explore their subject matters now, the dopamine rush will help them feel accomplished. This productive cycle can continue to make the most of these strange times. 

With plenty of time on their clock, it is the right time for students to unleash their curiosity, read that book that they always wanted to, spend more quality time with loved ones, or even just introspect. 

When the world is innovating to thrive in these times, students can use technology to grow and learn. With the rest of the world fighting an invisible enemy, it is essential to stay healthy, safe, and, more importantly, stay at home. 

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