How Dopamine can Enhance your Quiet Time
What word comes to mind when you think about spiritual disciplines?
Is it FUN?
We tend to think that fun is incompatible with spiritual growth, but what if the opposite is true? What if God wired our brains to chase down things we enjoy and keep coming back to them?
Brain scientists are telling us that "Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop. Every behavior that is highly habit-forming is associated with higher levels of dopamine." (James Clear, Atomic Habits) Let me get geeky here for a moment: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brains that acts as a “reward center,” playing an important role in pleasure, motivation, and learning (source).
In other words, when we do something enjoyable, our brains release dopamine, which helps create a habit. (This is why ice cream is so addictive—every taste releases dopamine, which brings us back for more!)
So why does this matter? Because dopamine was GOD’S IDEA! God created our brains, and this is one way He makes it easy and enjoyable for us to grow in our spiritual lives with Him!
And once we recognize this truth, we start seeing it all over Scripture:
"You make known to me
the path of life; in your presence there is
fullness of joy; at your right hand are
Life. Joy. Pleasure? No drudgery or boredom here.
"Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart."
—Jeremiah 15:16 ESV
Joy. Delight. Devouring Scripture like ice cream?
Dopamine-driven Bible habits are a real thing. If this concept is new to you, let me prove it by taking one of the most “boring” spiritual disciplines—memorizing Bible verses—and showing you some FUN ways you can make this habit a part of your weekly routine:
- Memorize Scripture set to music: I made this playlist to listen to in the car with my kids, but I find myself remembering these songs too!
- Color your memory verse to meditate as you memorize: this fun memorization technique is why I included coloring pages in my Colossians study He Is Enough (check it out here)!
- Write your verse on your hand or use these temporary tattoos that feature the first letter of each word.
- Create a mind palace for longer passages—the more fun and surprising the "anchor," the more likely you are to remember it. I used this mind palace as a guide for the beatitudes, and I still picture a Pur water filter on the bookshelf in my living room for Matthew 5:8. (Kinda crazy, but it works!)
- Make up silly hand motions for the verse(s) you're memorizing. I did this with my kids while working on Psalm 23, and we memorized it in record time!
And if an enjoyable Quiet Time sounds too good to be true, it's not. Even Jesus says so:
"I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"
—John 15:11 NLT
Wow. Can I get a "Thank You, Jesus!!"?
Does this mean that every devotional time will be a euphoric experience? No. Life is hard, and God welcomes us to bring all of ourselves to Him... the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hard. But when you spend time with Jesus, you'll leave differently than you came.
Because when we bring our anxiety, restlessness, and sorrow to Jesus, He gives us in exchange all He has to offer: Peace. Rest. Joy. His very presence is a gift to us.
And the more we experience the pleasure of His presence, the more eagerly we'll return to Him day after day. It's science. It's Scriptural. It's simple.
Pray with me?
Creator God, thank You for creating us to enjoy You. Truly, it is good for us to be near You, but so often we view spiritual habits as drudgery. Change our hearts and renew our minds. Fill us with anticipation when we open our Bibles, and revive in us a hunger, thirst, and delight in You. We want to find joy in Your presence. Lead us, Jesus. Amen
|Asheritah Ciuciu is a bestselling author, national speaker, and host of the Prayers of REST podcast. A Romanian missionary kid, she's passionate about helping people around the world enjoy Jesus through creative spiritual habits. Receive more practical ideas to make your Quiet Time fun when you join the weekly “Enjoying Jesus” email devotional here.|