Over the last five years or so, the idea of dopamine detox has gained huge popularity online. Many successful business men and self help gurus swear by it and claim it drastically improved their mental state. But does it really work?
Essentially a dopamine detox is the removal of all pleasurable substances and activities for a certain amount of time, typically two to five days. This includes everything from the internet and talking to other people, to eating food that you enjoy. You may be wondering who in their right mind would knowingly choose to go without anything directly enjoyable for two or more days? and why?
Dopamine detox is based on the idea that our world and culture are driven so much by instant gratification that it just keeps you scrolling through your phone for hours.
You tell yourself you need to be productive today only to look up and see that you’ve wasted the last four hours watching Netflix and YouTube. Even though we sit there internally yelling at ourselves that we need to get work done, we just keep indulging because we are looking for that next hit of dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure. This is the neurotransmitter involved when we play video games all day because we just need to reach that next level, instead of doing something that would ultimately make us feel more accomplished in the long run.
Because we are so accustomed to instant gratification it becomes hard to perform the tasks that benefit us long term. Exercise doesn’t feel worth it because you don’t see instant gains. Working on a start up seems impossible because you won’t make money the first day you start.
By essentially starving your brain of dopamine briefly, the theory is that you have the chance to “reprogram” your brain to get dopamine from other activities you have reintroduced, such as reading or working hard on a task that makes you feel fulfilled.
It’s worth noting, though, that dopamine detoxes have not been scientifically proven to have any effect on one’s wellbeing. There is no way to control your neurotransmitters to that effect, at least not as of yet.
My personal take away is that while dopamine detoxes are not proven, most likely the reason so many people claim they work is because it takes them away from sources of stress and distraction. Have you ever gone a week without your cell phone? It feels like you’ve just doubled your time in the day. If you like playing video games a little too much, try going just one week without and see what you can accomplish.
There’s definitely something to be said about stepping away from the online and digital world and focusing on real things you can do that you will thank yourself for in the future.
Though there is no scientific evidence to prove the benefits of a dopamine detox, it is not harmful to try it if you’re curious. Just remember when they say not to eat pleasurable food or drink, you are still supposed to eat and drink water. If you’re planning on detoxing for a few days, let your friends know so they don’t worry when they can’t reach you immediately.
Most importantly you can try a dopamine detox that YOU are comfortable with. It can be difficult to give up all pleasurable activities like talking to other people especially if you have to go to work.
Have you ever done a dopamine detox? Would you ever try it? Let me know your thoughts below!