Why you need a Dopamine Detox
What is a dopamine detox?
To put it simply a dopamine detox is where you spend a whole day abstaining from high dopamine activities such as:
Listening to music
Going on social media
Eating Junk food
Watching Netflix, TV shows, Movies
What you do as alternatives are:
Talking to friends
Exercise (no music)
This sounds crazy, i know. Why on earth should we replace some of the most enjoyable parts of the day most of which we indulge ourselves with after a long hard day at work, with boring and seemingly stressful activities? We need to know a little about dopamine and dopamine receptors to answer this question:
How it works?
Dopamine is a chemical in our bodies that is responsible for our feelings of happiness. Our brain have what are called dopamine receptors. These dopamine receptors interact with dopamine to produce feelings of happiness. When we overload our receptors with dopamine they become less sensitive to dopamine. This means in order for us to feel happy we need to do activities which release even more dopamine.
This is the reason why drug addicts find it difficult adapting to a normal life since nothing pleases them anymore.Their brain has become less sensitive to relatively low dopamine releasing activities such as: taking walks, reading books, reflecting, talking with family and constantly crave for a feeling of “happiness”, which can only be achieved through drugs. This is an extreme case of essentially what is happening in most of our lives. We spend a lot of time doing high dopamine releasing activities like listening to music, going on social media, eating junk food etc which is making our brains less sensitive to dopamine, making it difficult to find joy in the small things in life**.
A dopamine detox is essentially a method which restores dopamine receptors that have become desensitised from high dopamine releasing activities by abstaining from these activities. This will make it much easier for you to find joy in the small things in life, like taking a walk, reading, meditating, studying or working — all in which in our modern “high dopamine” world are seemingly boring tasks.
How to do a dopamine detox
Set one day a week *write it in your calendar * where you promise yourself to abstain from all “high” dopamine level activities listed at the start of the article. Saturday or Sunday would be ideal as often, on weekdays, after a long hard day at work we have a strong desire to relax our brains through high dopamine activities.
After setting a day of the week in your schedule, plan out how you will spend the day. You will most likely be overcome with intense feelings of boredom so it is important you know exactly what you should be doing at any time of the day. For example a general day plan could be:
- 8:00 am wake up + shower + breakfast
- 9:00 –10:00 am Read
- 10:00 – 10:30 am Go for a walk
- 10:00–12:00 am Work/Study
- 12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch
- 1:00–2:00 pm Shopping
- 2:00–3:00 pm Catch up with family/ visit friend
- 4:00 –5:00 pm Gym + Sauna
- 5:00–6:00 pm Shower + Study
- 6:00–7:00 pm Dinner
- 7:00–9:00 pm Watch a documentary
- 9:00–9:15 pm Meditate
- 9:15–10:00 pm Read
- 10:00–10:30 pm Sleep
The important thing here is that every hour of the day is planned. Yes you will become tempted to go on social media, eat junk food, watch a movie e.t.c . The extent of these temptations indicate how much you need a dopamine detox.
High cravings indicate your brain is used to high dopamine intakes throughout the day which is unhealthy so it is important that you resist and stick to your plan.
Benefits of doing a dopamine detox
Here is a list of just a few benefits of doing a dopamine detox one day per week most of which can be realised after just one day of a dopamine detox:
- New profound energy and motivation levels
You will notice that your energy levels will become much higher than before. This is because dopamine plays a key role on how energised we feel. When our receptors become overloaded with dopamine we tend to lose motivation as our brain is satisfied with its current state. In turn this makes us feel lazy and very much unmotivated to do anything. Starving our receptors from high doses of dopamine makes our brain crave it. As a result it tells us to read a book, study, work — essentially motivating us to do what is beneficial even if the dopamine supply from these activities are relatively low.
- Greater enjoyment in the smaller things in life
With our dopamine receptors becoming starved of high dopamine levels it starts to crave for dopamine. When we do relatively low dopamine but much more beneficial activities such as reading books or meditating, the dopamine supplied to our receptors is like water to a camel.
As a result looking at nature, feeling the wind on our face, talking to friends , studying, working — all of these feel so much more enjoyable.
- Increased productivity
After completing a dopamine detox you will start notice the enjoyment that comes with doing productive activities like reading books, studying, working e.t.c. This is because our dopamine receptors are now not wanting high doses of dopamine and are satisfied with the relatively lower dopamine but more productive tasks and so our brain encourages us to be more productive!
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A lot of the science mentioned in this article have been over simplified to ease understanding.