You’ve probably heard the study about rats and addiction. In this study, a rat is placed in a completely empty cage. The rat only has access to two containers which he can drink from; one container is filled with water, the other container is filled with what is basically liquid cocaine. This study proved repeatedly, 100% of the time, that the rat will always choose cocaine over water. And 100% of the time, the rats would choose the cocaine to the point that they would overdose and die. The scientists who performed this study concluded that all mammals (including people) will also always choose drugs over what they actually need given the choice.
Pretty simple right? But there’s another study that was done that completely disproves this conclusion that I find absolutely fascinating. It’s called the Ratopia Study. In this study, the scientists basically created a Rat Heaven which they call Ratopia. In Ratopia, a rat has everything it could possibly want; lots of rats to hang out with and mate with, plenty of space, unlimited food, colorful balls to play with, yarn, little tunnels, and so on. In the center of Ratopia are those same two liquid containers, one is filled with the liquid cocaine, and the other is filled with water. Now this is what’s fascinating, no rat has ever overdosed on cocaine in Ratopia. In fact, the rats barely drink from it at all, and even when they do, it’s never to the point of inebriation. The rats only drink from the water container on most days. I would compare it to a human that only has a few drinks every once in awhile (yes I know cocaine is worse than alcohol).
So why is that? Why do the rats overdose in the first study but live happy, overdose free lives in Ratopia??? It’s because of how the rats feel about their cage. In the first study, the rat is all alone and has literally nothing else to do besides sit, sleep, and drink. In Ratopia, its’ the complete opposite. The rats LOVE their cage because it isn’t a cage at all; all their needs of love, sex, friendship, play, exercise, mental stimulation, etc. are all at their disposal all the time!
We all are addicted to something; whether it be cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, or even things we don’t think of like watching TV or checking your cell phone. Ask yourself if this is an addiction that you want to keep. If it’s not, then focus less on quitting and more on creating. If you make a few changes to your cage, the addiction can get rid of itself.
I discovered that I really love swimming outside after my recent Mexico trip. So one small change I have made is gaining access to an outdoor pool so I can spend some time everyday doing something that I enjoy. This hasn’t gotten rid of my TV addiction, but it does take time away from it. Now it’s your turn to figure out what is missing from your cage and find a way to change it! You’ll enjoy your life more, be present more, and you won’t feel like you live in a cage anymore.