The Dopamine Detox
10 Aug 2022

The Dopamine Detox

The dopamine detox was a totally new concept to me but as soon as I heard about it and it’s purpose I was really intrigued.

Dopamine, also known as the feel-good hormone, is a chemical in our body that is linked to the reward centre of the brain. Human beings do not want to work hard to do, well, anything so we are hardwired to seek out the shortest route to dopamine. The brain interprets all pleasure in the same way – basically, pleasure is pleasure and pleasure is good. Right? Well, yes, however you are worth real, true, meaningful pleasure not the fast, easy dopamine hit we often chase. We all want to feel good, but we can also feel good and feel better – more connected, more ourselves and the answer is in how we get our dopamine.

Be Curious …

A dopamine detox starts with a bit of reflection. So, ask yourself,

  1. Where do I seek out the feel-good hormone, dopamine?
  2. Which of these work well for my overall wellbeing, and which are a quick fix?
  3. What is my go-to short cut to feel good?
  4. What are other things that I could be doing that are more worthy of me and my time?
  5. Do I allow the search for an instant dopamine fix distract me from what I really want more of in my life?

What to Detox?

In general terms the most common areas that we use as a way to hotwire dopamine are:

  • social media
  • TV
  • alcohol and recreational drugs
  • emotional eating
  • porn and masturbation
  • shopping
  • gambling

For my detox (and also keeping this PG) I chose the areas that I felt most affected me – social media, tv and emotional eating.

For how long?

The length of time for your dopamine detox is totally up to you – and is a reflection of what you feel would be beneficial, meaningful, and, most importantly, achievable. The detox can last between several hours to 1 month and beyond. I chose two weeks for my detox.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

In preparation, I decided what this would look like and what I needed to do to be ready and to make this as easy as possible, in order to accomplish what I wanted. I let my household know that TV was out for me (I’m not sure they really noticed to be honest!), I removed all my social media from my phone and iPad and I meal prepped and stocked up on wholesome food.

My Reflections

I am on my final day as I write this, and I have to say I was really surprised by my reaction to the detox –

  • I didn’t miss social media at all – it was a very welcome break for me and allowed me a lot of my time back
  • I missed TV even less
  • I slept so much better – when tired I went to bed – if i was too tired to read or chat it was time for bed – no more scrolling or TV which, of course, stimulate us and keep us awake longer
  • I really missed snacking and learnt to make proper time for meals rather than the habit I had of picking things as I was rushing through my day
  • I connected more with myself and others. No social media meant I had more time for reflection. For calling friends. For hugs. For better conversations. I spent more time walking and swimming. I went back to yoga. My body was looking for feel-good and without the availability of the usual vacuous go-tos I found myself going back to what has always felt good for me, not just good for me in that second.
  • I planned better – I have a very creative mind and this can be a real challenge at times as I am always thinking and searching – and so with the slow down and the increase of time available, I spent more time seeing plans through, rather than rushing to the next
  • So, all in all – time for what matters was my greatest reward

What now?

I am actually sad that this is over, and I will take a lot from it.

TV – I will continue to enjoy TV with my family if there is something we really want to curl up and watch together, or a programme that I am really drawn to, but apart from that I have no desire to go back to TV – thanks Married at First Sight Australia – its been, well, mind numbing.

Social Media – I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I have built fabulous connections on Instagram and love interacting with likeminded people. This can quickly lead, though, to mindless scrolling or comparing with an Instagram version of someone else’s life. Instagram will be back, happily, but only on my work iPad during work hours – boundaried and sacred – leaving me with lots more time for me!

Emotional Eating – this was my biggest challenge – I blame growing up in a house with 4 hungry brothers – and I don’t ever agree with being hungry in such a plentiful world – but I am aware of my motivation for reaching for food – and more and more I am reaching for a hug for myself or with a loved one – as that is what is I was truly wanting – a reward that hit the spot – and the type of dopamine that I deserve more of.