We’re all spending a lot more time in front of screens these days. Social distancing has made it harder to connect with other people, which means our screens have become an even more attractive distraction. Can you blame us?
If you’ve been a bit bored with the quarantine, working from home, or just feeling a bit bleh these days, you might want to consider a dopamine detox. Those who have tried this new online fad have often noted a better mood, improved focus, and even more satisfaction in their personal relationships. Sound interesting?
So what exactly is Dopamine? Chances are you’ve heard of this stuff before. Dopamine is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in your brain. Its primary function is to reward you when you do something good. The purpose of dopamine is to reinforce behavior. That’s why it feels so good to eat, learn, sleep, relax, and spend time with your loved ones, among other things. Dopamine is actually a very good thing. It’s your body's way of letting you know that you’re doing something that will help you survive and stay healthy.
So Why Detox from Something So Great? Dopamine is also a bit of a double-edged sword. Dopamine is also released from your brain when you indulge in things like endless social media scrolling, eating junk food, and consuming alcohol (to name a few). These activities may feel good, but they’re not exactly healthy for you. In our overly connected world, we get a dopamine hit from plenty of unhealthy or ‘useless’ things. Social media and smartphones are wonderful things, but they’re also pretty addictive because of how much dopamine they give you.
A dopamine detox isn’t an attempt to reduce the amount of dopamine in your brain. It’s a way of re-training your brain to get dopamine the old fashioned way. Completing projects, spending time with family and friends, exercising, and anything that doesn’t necessarily have an immediate reward is all easier when you eliminate or reduce easy sources of dopamine from your life.
It Will Make Doing “Hard Things” Easier You’d be hard-pressed to not be a bit distracted in this day and age. Your social media, smartphone, TV, and even this blog post are small distractions that make it harder to concentrate on more important things. That’s why many avid readers stop reading after spending too much time on social media. A brilliant novel may be more satisfying in the long run, but that tiny dopamine hit from someone liking your Instagram post is far easier to come by.
If you want to start meeting your goals, turn in better work, and learn to focus like a pro you can start by removing easy sources of dopamine from your life. Boredom will actually drive you to work harder and to become more productive. Luckily, a detox is pretty easy to do.
Begin By Identifying How You Spend Your Time We each get cheap dopamine in different ways, but the smartphone is a hotspot for most people. Luckily, you can use this to your advantage. Most phones will actually tell you how much time you spend every day on a given app. Spend a few days tracking exactly how you spend your time and you might be shocked how much time you waste scrolling Instagram, crushing candy, or listening to podcasts. Be honest with yourself and identify your biggest time wasters. If you spend an hour watching TV at night or listen to a podcast on your commute, that probably isn’t a problem. If you spend 3 hours a day scrolling Twitter, you might want to curb that. Take a serious look at activities that cut into your family and work time.
Set a Detox Timeline A dopamine detox doesn’t have to take weeks or even a full day. In fact, we suggest you start by simply taking a few hours off from activities that you’ve identified as problematic. Resolve to cut these out of your life for a set amount of time. You may find it harder than you think. Don’t hesitate to block and remove apps and websites from your life. They’re less tempting if they’re harder to access!
Use Meditation To Stay on Course When you first begin your detox, you’ll probably notice the constant impulse to go back to your usual habits. This is normal! Consider taking a few minutes to meditate and clear your mind of distractions. Not big on meditating? Try one of our favorite meditation apps.
Decide What To Keep When you’re finished with your detox, take some time to identify how you feel. How productive were you? What were your biggest temptations? What was easy to give up? Were you more productive? Happier? Did you spend more time with your family and friends? Or was it all terribly boring? That's okay too.
Be honest with yourself and consider permanently cutting some stuff out of your life. There’s no need to become an ascetic, but you might find you enjoy life more if you maintain discipline and cut a few unnecessary habits out of your life.