Dopamine is a “feel good” chemical released in our brains under certain stimuli. In an evolutionary sense, it was meant to reward early humans for behaviors that would aid in their survival. It’s released by all kinds of pleasant activities; from shopping to sex.
When regulated normally, Dopamine is associated with rewards, motivation, and productivity. Today’s world, though, can overstimulate the human brain in myriad ways. That over-stimulation becomes problematic as “hits” of Dopamine become more and more addicting. The resulting addiction cycle leads to all forms of anxiety, sleeplessness, and lack of motivation.
In more extreme cases, that same addiction cycle can also lead us into risky or unhealthy behaviors, as we chase those hits of “feel good”. Promiscuous sex/porn, drugs, and outrageous spending are common vices of Dopamine fiends.
One of the biggest contributors to Dopamine overload is one that you wouldn’t think of, too. Your cell phone (that you’re probably reading this on) is bombarding your brain with potentially addictive Dopamine triggers all day long. Every beep, vibration, and notification is like a little hit of “Dope”. You subconsciously start to look forward to those hits, and miss them when they don’t come.
If you start your day by looking at your phone, please stop. Doing that was one of the most profound changes I made on the road to self improvement. I started a morning routine that involved paper pages in books, rather than the glow of my phone. That allowed me to start my days with more calm and confidence, almost immediately. I made the same adjustment at night; and as a bonus, less exposure to blue light before bedtime is also very beneficial for restful sleep.
With reducing my screen time as step #1, here’s what I did for the rest of my Dopamine detox:
- I did some serious self reflection to identify my top 3 temptations. What were the 3 things that I was most guilty of indulging in too often? I now only allow myself to do or have these things as a reward for set amounts of productivity. Four hours of work = 15 minutes of a reward. 8 = 30. etc.
- I cut more sugars and processed foods out of my diet. No one is perfect, but trying harder makes a big difference. Less sugar highs and lows will drastically affect your mood. Try 30 days of strict fasting from sugar, and then ease into healthy moderation.
- Dopamine is actually a neurohormone, so its proper regulation requires a healthy schedule for sleep and rest.