Dopamine detoxing has been a popular topic especially amongst tech bros in Silicon Valley. It is quite possible that you have even heard your favorite famous person talking about it on Twitter. But dopamine detoxing is not a new thing by any means. In fact, the dopamine fast has been around for centuries. Since our society has moved on to widely addictive behaviors such as social media scrolling, it has picked up more attention as a productivity and mental health tool.
There are dopamine detox rules that you should follow in order to get the best results. First, you need to understand what dopamine is and what it does. Once you know the role of dopamine in the body, you need to understand how your behaviors affect dopamine. If you have undesirable behaviors, you may need to change your routine. You’ll need to establish dopamine detox guidelines after you’ve discovered your addictive behaviors. I will provide you with the most general and applicable rules that may help the majority of people.
The Best Dopamine Detox Rules
- Avoid screens (phones, computers, TVs)
- No junk food
- No drugs to include cigarettes and alcohol (still take your doctor prescribed medications)
- No thrill seeking or overly-stimulating behavior
- No spending (shopping, gambling)
- No masturbation (porn)
Let’s discuss the best dopamine detox rules and how to follow them!
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical messenger that is made from the amino acid tyrosine. It is used by the brain to control pleasure, motivation, learning, and sleep. Dopamine is also responsible for some of our behavioral responses.
What is a dopamine detox?
This trend first appeared in 2016 with the introduction of the 40 day dopamine fast and has picked up steam ever since. When we do something that dopamine deems pleasurable- like browsing our phones- it releases a surge of the chemical in our brains. This can be addictive and lead to dopamine overload. The premise behind this dopamine detox program was to reduce addictive behaviors and not necessarily dopamine itself. This is important since some people think the dopamine detox goal is to reduce total dopamine. We need dopamine.
A successful dopamine detox should curb addictive behaviors. This results from the way our body uses dopamine as a reinforcing tool for habits. This is classic operant conditioning. Habits that result in a positive outcome are reinforced while habits that lead to a negative outcome are avoided (reward vs. punishment).
Habits are formed when we receive a cue. This cue triggers an automatic routine or action. This routine is reinforced with a reward which solidifies this habit. There is a great book called the Power of Habit on this topic for the avid readers out there.
When we receive the reward, a feel good chemical called dopamine is released in our brain. Every time this cycle is completed, we are hardwiring this behavior into our brain.
This is where a dopamine detox fast comes into play. By reducing negative behaviors via a fast, we are stopping the reinforcement of this chemical feedback loop. This can gives us tremendous health benefits especially if the habits we are performing are especially negative for our mental wellbeing.
What a dopamine detox diet isn’t.
- Focusing on reducing the levels of dopamine
- Avoiding all stimulating activities such as talking, socializing, or exercising.
- Meditation 2.0
- Band-Aid for future addictive behavior
A dopamine detox is not to reduce your overall levels of dopamine. This is a common misconception. We require a certain amount of dopamine to perform at our best, which is why it’s so important. For this reason, we should avoid completely stopping dopamine-inducing behavior such as interacting with other people or working out. These behaviors are not the behaviors we want to curb. Dopamine detoxing isn’t a new method of meditation either however it can be beneficial to mental health. Finally, it’s not a stopgap solution for future addictive behaviors. This can begin a new, negative feedback loop that has significant mental health ramifications.
What are the best dopamine detox rules?
One of the best dopamine detox rules is to avoid screens as much as possible. This includes phones, laptops, TVs, and any other electronic devices. The reason for this is that when we are exposed to screens, our dopamine levels surge. This can lead to dopamine overload and addiction. It’s important to break this habit and give our brains a break!
Another great dopamine detox rule is to avoid addictive behaviors. This includes things like eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and using drugs. These activities can all lead to dopamine overload and addiction. It’s important to be mindful of our behavior and make healthy choices!
If an activity elicits a rush or is highly pleasurable, it may be worth adding on to your “Don’ts” list during your detox fasting periods. Use common sense here though. Not talking or avoiding exercise is probably not the smartest activities to eliminate since there are many studies showing the health benefits behind these activities.
Dopamine Detox for Social Media
Social media is an engineered dopamine machine. Software companies design these programs to spike dopamine over and over for increased user interaction. Getting your socialization through an app lead to antisocial behavior and undesirable social coping mechanisms. Social media dependence resembles substance dependence. (1)
Eliminating all social media use should definitely be on your detox list.
Dopamine Detox for Overeating
Mindfulness can reduce overeating and lead to healthier habits. (2)
Obesity is a contributing factor for most of the top causes of preventable deaths such as heart disease and diabetes. Eating gives us pleasure especially carbohydrates. This is because they release serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Serotonin makes us feel good while dopamine motivates us to continue seeking pleasure. This makes emotional eating a huge risk especially during times of sadness or feeling low. This is recipe for disaster.
I would cut out overeating period. This may not be feasible for some in the beginning but eliminating overeating as a detox rule should be on everyone’s list. You should also concentrate on getting rid of sugar while you’re detox fasting. Use this period to slowly shift your eating habits into healthier ones. If you are currently overweight, check out this 30 day weight loss challenge. It has 4 easy steps to start positive weight loss habit.
- Don’t eat to excess.
- Reduce sugar.
- Focus on eating healthier options.
Dopamine Detox for Shopping/Gambling/Spending money
Spending money can make us feel great. The moment we reward ourselves with that new item, dopamine kicks in. This is the same when a gambler wins a hand. He may lose the next 10 but he is trying to get that dopamine he received earlier. This can result in actions that are not rational such as betting money you don’t have.
Don’t shop, gamble, or spend any money during your fast.
Dopamine Detox for TV/Video Games/Internet
It’s critical to limit screen time. Screen usage especially at night time can affect circadian rhythms leading to a host of negative effects on the body and mind. (3)
TV and video games also can contribute to sedentary behavior which is unhealthy.
Eliminate all screens during the fasting period.
Dopamine Detox for Porn/Masturbation
Masturbation isn’t inherently bad. When it becomes compulsive or highly relied on, the problem arises. The goal is to use dopamine to reinforce positive behaviors and habits. Excessive masturbation can have detrimental effects on relationships and mental wellbeing.
Don’t masturbate or view porn during the fast.
What is the best dopamine detox schedule for me?
According to the author of The Definitive Guide to Dopamine Fasting, the best schedule is:
- 1-4 hours at the end of the day (depending on work & family demands)
- 1 weekend day (spend it outside on a Saturday or Sunday)
- 1 weekend per quarter (go on a local trip)
- 1 week per year (go on vacation!)
This recommendation seems pretty sound. The key is to reduce taxing the dopaminergic pathways with negative habit loops. If you are having trouble adhering to this schedule, reduce the requirements and slowly build up your dopamine restrictions. Just like exercise, the key is adherence to a program.
Is a dopamine detox right for me?
Unless you are a monk meditating for the majority of the day, it is possible for you to receive some benefits by modifying your daily routine with these detox rules. A dopamine detox fasting is an excellent approach to begin breaking the addiction cycle if you’re having trouble with negative behaviors. Remember, it’s not a quick-fix, but it may be a long-term solution to better mental health!
Dopamine Detox Rules Conclusion
Though dopamine fasting may seem difficult at first, it’s important to remember the benefits. By following these dopamine detox rules, we can improve our mental health and well-being!
Are you or have you ever done a dopamine detox? If so, what do you include in your detox? Let me know in the comments below.