Are you addicted to doing?

 Young woman writes in her day planner

Have you ever planned to take some needed down time—on your day off, even just when you had a minute to yourself—but instead of resting or doing what you intended, you started a new project, got busy in something around the house, or immediately said “yes” to going out? And that “down time” you planned for yourself? Never happened.

If this sounds familiar, you might be addicted to action. It’s a common problem, and it’s caused by our brain chemistry. The neurotransmitter dopamine gets released when we anticipate a reward (starting a new project, an organized closet, a fun time with friends), giving you a temporary rush of happiness and satisfaction that also feels relaxing. But the feelings don’t last long. So then your brain starts looking for more activity to keep the good feelings coming.

Before you know it, you’re caught in a vicious cycle of chasing action and reward, which makes it very difficult to ever just stop and relax, or even focus on larger goals.

How do you break the busyness addiction? By creating deliberate pauses in your day that help you learn to slow down.

Try this:

1) If you’re someplace where you can do so, set a timer to remind you each hour to take a 45-second break. Or, do this exercise when you have natural breaks in your day, like at lunch.

2) When you get the notification, stop what you’re doing. Let go of the thoughts you are having (even telling yourself I’m letting go of thoughts now), and turn your focus to your breathing.

3) As you inhale and then exhale, just allow your body and mind to relax a bit. As you continue breathing, start to focus your attention. Ask yourself, “What am I doing right now? Am I spinning my wheels, or am I putting my energy on something important?”

That’s it. Come back to noticing your breath, and then bring your attention back into the room. After your break, chances are you’ll feel calmer and more focused. Repeat often.



This copyrighted information courtesy of and organizational development experts Jacqueline Carter and Rasmus Hougaard.

Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. August 2019.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.