Am I the only one who feels like they constantly have a screen, sound, or task in front of them at all times? I go on walks and listen to podcasts, I work out and watch YouTube, and my fiancé and I spend our nights together and watch a TV show.
I don’t think I’m alone in this because #dopaminedetox has over 30 million views on TikTok right now.
What is a Dopamine Detox?
@maritza.artola Replying to @evolutionhtx Let’s talk about doing a dopamine detox! #dopaminedetox #dopaminedetoxchallenge #adhdtips #momswithadhd #mommentalhealth #phoneaddiction #socialmediaaddiction #lowenergyentrepreneur #momcontentcreator ♬ original sound – Maritza | Mom Content Creator
Unlike some diets and detoxes, a dopamine detox is more attainable and sustainable. This detox is more about taking a break from habits that trigger reward systems in your brain. If it gives you a rush as soon as you do it, you might want to hit pause on it.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with fueling parts of your life with dopamine, but practicing little detoxes every now and then is a good way for you to assess how much you rely on dopamine in your day-to-day life.
Licensed psychologist Stephanie Gardner-Wright, LMSW, suggests you try a dopamine detox “If you find yourself constantly reaching for your phone or if you always have podcasts and TV on in the background.”
So, I definitely need to try this.
How to do a Dopamine Detox
The first thing you’ll want to do when you’re starting your dopamine detox is to find what spikes your dopamine the most. This could be something that makes you feel burnt out or exhausted after you’ve done it or something that gives you a quick thrill that never lasts.
After you’ve identified the suspect or suspects, try to cut back on the time you spend doing it. Replace the dopamine trigger with something more mindful.
If you love sitting and scrolling through your phone, use that time to be creative or clean. If you listen to podcasts or audiobooks when you’re driving, sit in silence sometimes, or listen to a meditation, high vibrational frequencies, or classical music. The key to a successful dopamine detox is to slow down and listen to the thoughts that are often drowned out by the dopamine we’re constantly triggering the release of.
Benefits of a Dopamine Detox
The wonderful thing about a dopamine detox is that, unlike dopamine itself, the detox’s benefits will last longer than the short spurt of joy you get from instant gratification.
1. It reduces overstimulation
No one wants to be addicted to their phones or reliant on dopamine to live. When you put your dopamine triggers down, you can finally realize just how stressed out and overstimulated you’ve been.
2. It boosts creativity & productivity
All the room that’s been taken up in your brain about getting a quick dopamine hit and the overstimulation that comes with it is also taking up your creative space. Gardner-Wright says “Dopamine detoxes help you to tap back into your creativity and intuition by removing distractions and the mental static of staying constantly stimulated… It makes room for your own thoughts, ideas, and sensations, instead of being distracted by them.”
3. It makes slower activities fun
By now, I’m regretting my choices a bit. I am addicted to dopamine, and I know that practicing slow living through a dopamine detox isn’t going to be easy for me. Gardner-Wright mentions, “You’re literally building new neural networks by practicing that slower habit of reading a book, taking a walk, or focusing on one activity at a time.”
4. It helps prevent burnout
We’ve already established that living off of and for dopamine can drain you quickly, so take a break from it and prevent your own destruction.
5. It helps you check in with yourself
How often do we run to a quick fix instead of actually unpacking the problem, turning off the noise, and listening to ourselves for once?
As I was doing research on dopamine detoxes, Gardner-Wright comfortingly said something along the lines of ‘dopamine detoxes aren’t supposed to be enjoyable. They’re supposed to make you uncomfortable and make you grow. You’re probably going to hate it for the first few days.’
The joy of Markey Tries It articles is if I hate the thing I’m trying, I only have to do it for six more days. If I love it, I’m introduced to something I’ll do for the rest of my life. But if I’m testing something that takes a few weeks to stick, I’ll never know.
I tried my first bout of dopamine detoxing earlier today. I didn’t have any work to do and I’d already done all the things on my to-do list. I debated sitting down and watching all the TikToks about the Don’t Worry Darling drama, but I decided to start the detox instead.
One of the things I saw as an example of a dopamine detox was simply reading a book. I know it sounds crazy that that’s something that would be hard for me, but this was one of the biggest brain challenges I’ve had for a minute.
I love books. I’ve read over one hundred already this year. But I ‘read’ them on Libby, meaning they’re read to me by someone at three times the speed while I do other things. So sitting down and actually reading a book today was a challenge.
It felt like a magnet was pulling me to scroll on my phone, text someone, refresh my email, check Asana, or any number of dopamine-inducing hits I give myself 5,000 times a day. While my reading session ended up lasting only about 30 minutes, it was a solid start, and I did feel more refreshed in the long run after it was done.
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I love Wednesdays because they’re the days when Aldi puts out their new stuff and I go while listening to my favorite podcast. (Side note: being an adult is really not all that fun.) But today it all became too much for me and I finished my shopping trip by having a panic attack in the car. I was not driving and I was safe, but I decided it was a good sign to have a quick dopamine detox and drive in silence. After I got home, I also unloaded my groceries in silence and then read my Bible. I find it ironic that sometimes, the things you’re looking forward to the most in your days are sometimes the things that bring you the most stress.
While I was driving home in silence, something I almost never do, I started wondering if I would be listening to my body and embracing the silence as much if I wasn’t doing a dopamine detox.
Introducing this detox into my life is helping me learn new ways to eradicate the noise surrounding me, and I’m so grateful for that.
The next day, I set out to do a mundane chore without music or distractions. The opportunity to do a dopamine detox came early today…literally.
At five in the morning, my cat woke me up. I had mixed two brands of his food together and he didn’t appreciate it, so I spent an hour in silence dividing up his food by brand.
While I’m not sure if this was ‘enjoyable,’ I’m really glad I did it in the quiet of the morning and without any distractions. It was the first thing I did that morning, when usually I’ll jump out of bed, check Instagram, and do some yoga. Being silent and doing a mundane task honestly set me up for a more mindful day.
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This challenge is really a hug for me. Today was a cozy, rainy day, so I stayed in for the majority of it. While I was making my to-do list, the task of designing my new month in my bullet journal came up, so I decided to do that. I’ll often make a bit of art to go along with each month’s theme, so it’s very therapeutic for me. While I was drawing, I realized I kept looking for things to watch that would provide background noise. I decided to turn everything off and turn on a meditation. While it was still background noise, it was detoxifying and productive. I then folded my laundry in silence, so I could meditate a bit longer. It was a great reset for my brain after I had overloaded it for a while.
Bring back the silent walk era! I started my morning with a mindful walk and it was needed. Today is a Monday, so that means there are more work stresses than most days. I had a bad bout of the Sunday scaries last night and this morning was hectic, so I escaped from everything and took a very overdue silent walk.
Well, not totally silent. I started my walk with a Headspace meditation that talked about putting your anxieties and frustrations into the walk. While I missed the entertainment of my morning podcast, it was so worth it to pause everything and start my day off with mindfulness and a detox.
I’ll usually go on a walk or work out when I get stressed out or overwhelmed, but I feel like my meditation helped me take my walk a step further (get it?), and I felt more rejuvenated and relaxed after it was over.
The next dopamine detox I tried to intentionally do was not be on my phone before bed. This is really hard for me because I’m addicted to my phone, and scrolling through hundreds of TikToks usually distracts me if I’m stressed out.
But something extremely stressful happened in my personal life at around 9 pm, the time I usually go to bed, so I was up and anxious. But instead of running to my phone or my TV, I decided to spend the night in silent prayer. I took an extra shower to dull my senses, then I got into bed and laid there for about two hours in prayer.
While I didn’t go to sleep, I felt more rested than I would have if I had switched on a TV show or scrolled through TikTok.
For the last day, I tried to listen to my body and my mind and respect when I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. I have a busy brain and decided to take advantage of the dopamine detox for the last time. So, I turned off every electronic, snuggled up with my cat, and worked on my embroidery in complete silence for an hour.
I loved it. I’ll usually work on a craft while I’m listening to an audiobook or watching TV, so I thought that doing it in silence wouldn’t help me out and it would get boring, but I actually was able to work harder and get more done. I was also able to quiet my brain down and recenter my thoughts.
I think what the expert said in the beginning was very fair. This article took me a while to do because I didn’t want to do it. I would rather finish an audiobook or watch a show than sit in silence and listen to myself.
I know that another way to do a dopamine detox is to delete all the apps that give you dopamine and not turn the TV on for a week, but it was a tough week and I liked the little tastes of a dopamine detox much more than quitting dopamine cold turkey.
I think the most important thing I learned is that sometimes, I need a detox. There were a handful of days in the past week when I was thankful for the reminder that I ‘had to’ slow down and breathe. I don’t think enough people give themselves permission to just shut it all off.
I’ll continue to do little bite-sizes of dopamine detoxes from now on, and I’m genuinely excited about that.
Have you ever tried a dopamine detox before? How did it go? Comment below!
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