Artists and Dopamine

What in the world is dopamine?

And what in the world does this have to do with being an artist?

Yes, students, this is today’s class on something that may seem so far afield that you may think you’re visiting another planet.  We’re still on Earth, I promise.  But we are going to take a very interesting trip.

A molecule of dopamine

Dopamine is this stuff that the body puts out (actually it’s how nerve cells communicate) to make us feel good.  Actually it’s a substance that has little feeler thingies on the edges of the outside, that when they match up with other cells, they match up really well like horse & carriage, tomatoes and pasta, puppies and love – well you get the idea.  Anyway these receptor thingies that match up really well, is what makes us feel good.

We get those match-ups when we eat ice cream (particularly your fav flavor), with sex (ooo-la–la!!), and other things that aren’t so good for us like smoking, (nicotine is one of the most addictive substances for this receptor/match-up only exceeded by:) and cocaine, which is why it’s so hard to break these habits.

But let’s stay on the good part here, cause what scientists are finding is that artists have a leg up on the rest of the folks.  Scientists are discovering that the act of creating and executing that creation causes the nerve cells to release dopamine and that’s why creating and being an artist is so addictive.

This explains a lot.  Why in the world would we want to take on another project?  We’ve got errands to run, tasks to complete, job, the yard needs some work, the faucet needs to be fixed, the trash needs to be taken out, and where is the time to create?  Here is the reason we take on these creative projects:  because the process is addictive.  But here’s the good news, it’s not fattening, illegal, immoral nor otherwise not good for you.  This is actually good for you.  But it does explain a lot.

Some of the titles of these articles are little (wait for it:) headline-seeking (I know, not a good joke, but it’s so true).  But these do explain the chemical process at the molecular and are grounded in good study criteria.  So this isn’t something I’ve just made up as an excuse to continue sewing.  And for me it does explain the remarkable transformation my mind makes in walking in and out of my studio and why it’s so much fun to walk in and create!

This is Your Brain on Music, from Scientopia.org

How Listening to Music is Like Having Sex from theweek.com

Thrilling Music Is Like Food And Sex: More Pleasure and Anticipation Equals More Dopamine from MedicalNewsToday.com

Most of these articles site studies done at McGill University in their neurological department.  They are looking into behavior that is chemically induced or otherwise originates from chemical actions and reactions in the body.  It’s really fascinating.

I just find it relieving and great to know I’m not someone beating my head against the wall.  There’s actually an explanation of why I like to sew and create – no, why I need to sew and create!

So it’s OK to enjoy this cause not only is it not illegal, immoral or fattening – it’s fun – and makes you feel good!

 

5 Comments
  1. So that is why I bought 5 yards of Italian wool at Helen Enox fabrics the other day! I can see the outfit in my mind and maybe by next fall I will have it made. And I am trying to hem this silk dress cut on the bias..ahhh!!! And I cast on for a cotton sweater last night. I have a fabric stash and a yarn stash. It is getting harder and harder to hide it from my husband.

    • Absolutely….it has nothing to do with any sort of control. Actually we are totally out of control, and to keep from disturbing the harmonic convergence of the universe….we must buy fabric…..we must buy fabric…..we must buy fabric!!! It’s like a horror movie…..The Fabricoholic from Next Door!

  2. I totally understand the dopamine impact. When I am creating I am in the zone, sort of a high. And its a glorious feeling. I think any creative person understands this and that’s one of the reasons they create. The question is: if all of us put in more time to create would we not ALL feel so much better? Hmmm,,,,,

  3. I read the book “This is your brain on music” (available at amazon) and it has affected the way that I do everything – work, listen to music, sew, even browse the internet. I do take a lot of pleasure from sewing, and that book gave me a frame of reference for understanding it, and for figuring out how to maximize that pleasure. Its an awesome read.

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