There is a new ‘diet’ doing the rounds on the internet and amongst those who seek to improve themselves professionally and personally. Among the many ways to detox your life the ‘dopamine detox’ is a popular concept, originating ironically enough, from the ground zero of all things technology, Silicon Valley, which involves abstaining from activities that give you a quick and easy pleasurable feeling, or a dopamine hit.
Activities such as checking your Facebook, shopping, gaming, eating sugar, drinking wine, coffee, bingeing on Netflix and so on, all cause a release of dopamine in our system, which re-enforces that what we did was enjoyable, and we should do it again. And again. The brain then drives us towards these behaviors, often in an addictive manner. This is why we can find ourselves checking our phones every 90 seconds, even though nothing very important is happening. Or why we shop to feel better and why the prospect of spending the day on the couch bingeing on Netflix can be so much more appealing (especially with so many of us working from home nowadays) than working on that great new idea you had for your work project. This is also why it can be so hard to drag the children away from their video games. These are all activities that provide instant feelings of pleasure with very little effort or commitment on your part.
The dopamine pleasure reward system originally served to teach us to partake in activities necessary to our survival, for example, eating sweet high calorie food, procreating and communicating with our peers. However, these days our society is so overstimulated and bombarded with ‘cheap’ dopamine triggers that can be highly addictive, and even destructive; like online gambling, porn, alcohol, TikTok and junk food, that we can be too busy getting our cheap, easy hits to achieve anything that actually serves us in the long term. These compulsive activities give instant little rewards and wire our brain to want to get another hit, and another. The problem is, so many of these activities actually undermine our personal development and decrease our motivation and concentration levels.
Let’s compare posting a popular picture on your socials, and watching the compliments flow in, to getting out in the garden weeding, pruning and planting your own herbs. Or reading a challenging piece of literature instead of gossiping with your girlfriend for an hour about your in-laws. We know which activities serve our best interests at a holistic level, but the impulse can be hard to resist when we are surrounded by easy dopamine triggers. We pay the price though as our overall feeling of satisfaction in life creeps away.
Enter the dopamine detox, which can in theory, can help to reset your dopamine levels, so you can feel more centered and able to focus on and enjoy the simpler things in life, those things that actually serve and help you to grow personally and professionally. There are so many variations in length of time recommended for the detox and how strict it should be, that you can pretty safely design your own personal version. For example, one weekend turn off your phone, unplug the television, cook your own healthy meals from scratch and enjoy being in complete silence. Walk outside, read, pray, meditate, or undertake some artful crafty activity you have never tried. But skip the morning coffee and the afternoon wine, the phone calls, the texts, the posts, the updates, the inbox, the drop box, all of it! See if your productivity, motivation and overall sense of self possession has improved on the Monday.
If you want to cut down on your less helpful dopamine triggers and get your hit in healthier ways, have a try of the following 7 day plan to get you started.
7 Day Dopamine Balancing Plan (Challenge yourself!)
Monday - Skip caffeine. Add cold shower.
Tuesday - Skip social media. Add 100 push-ups (5 sets of 20 throughout the day).
Wednesday - Skip sugar. Add 10 minutes meditation.
Thursday - Skip television, radio, Spotify. Add classical music.
Friday - Skip shopping. Add cook something new from scratch.
Saturday - Skip alcohol. Add 1 hour outdoors in nature.
Sunday - Skip Processed foods. Add 1 hour massage!
Need more ideas? Here is our 28 Day Challenge - Mind-Body-Balance, Self-Care Challenge and you can download our beautiful Reflection Journal here. Check out more challenges here at #lamsquare28daychallenge.