GHDR Reboot 009: Where the Lizard Brain Roams

Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2022 by Sri. Tagged GHDR

I had a lot of trouble waking up this morning, thanks to a very late night trying to max out my Destiny 2 season pass before it expires on Friday. On waking rather late, I was then stuck in bed for a good 2-3 hours negotiating with myself to burst forth with energy but my brain wasn't having it. It's a familiar process, trying to coax myself out of bed in the morning. I didn't feel particularly depressed or sad about anything, and there were plenty of things that I wanted to do, but there was a profound lack of interest in any of these ideas.

The Lizard is in Charge in the Morning

It occurred to me that this was the lizard brain again, which never wants to do anything that (1) isn't immediately gratifying or (2) has the slightest whiff of discomfort or uncertainty. In the past I would go into robot mode and put the body in charge, but today I had the following insight:

When I wake up in the morning, it's not my 'let's do things and be productive' aspiring self that's in charge, as I'd thought. It's actually the damn lizard brain. I'm warm in my bed cave, feeling comfortable and not having any pressing reason to move. The lizard brain is the gatekeeper for the rest of the day.

The way the Lizard Brain exerts control over me is by not responding to any of the wonderful suggestions I am thinking/planning. I might think to myself, "Yeah, today I can work on my e-commerce projects!" and the Lizard Brain just responds with silence. The thought, unreinforced, then fades away and I remain stuck in bed. It's worth remembering that the Lizard Brain just wants these things:

  • to not spoil the status quo of being warm and comfortable for anything that might not be so
  • the immediate promise of stimulation/gratification that exceeds the comfort of just staying in bed. The thought of breakfast or coffee isn't enough if I'm not hungry.
  • any stimulation that doesn't require effort (e.g. scrolling Tik Tok)

Beating the Lizard Brain

The Lizard Brain is overriden by the following:

  • an exciting thought that promises new knowledge or confirms a new way to do something, and all I need to do is get up and try it
  • an exciting promise to see something cute (like a cat or a bunny) or present cute (by picking a fun outfit)
  • really, any kind of curiosity of a very high level of immediacy and novelty. But this is not the only way, and is in fact probably the least efficient way to get out of bed.

So, if I recognize that the Lizard Brain is calling the shots in the morning, that suggests some new stratagems that prioritze getting away from the bed to weaken the power of the Lizard Brain:

Hypothetical Lizard Breakers!

  • Set the wind-down alarm to 9PM to remind myself it's time to close the day
  • Avoid planning in bed, but it's just a waste of time and energy. Focus instead of moving outside of the bedroom.
  • Move the damn phone out of the bedroom to make scrolling social media impossible to do comfortably. Use a regular alarm clock to wake up. Put all devices next to the computer downstairs at the end of the day.
  • Pre-select the clothing to wear the night before, so I can put them on right after showering in the morning.
  • Make getting protein + coffee the priority in the morning
  • Take a walk or a drive to plan the day. Get out of the house, move the body to elevate blood flow.
  • Reserve Adderall for early afternoon, if needed at all.

ASIDE: I am wondering if the Lizard Brain is a manifestation of low blood sugar + low dopamine. A hypothesis about ADHD is that it is a lack of dopamine availability in the brain, as dopamine can crudely be categorized as the 'reward seeking/action' neurotransmitter?

We'll see how it goes tomorrow.