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Why We Need A Dopamine Detox

The goal is to give your brain a break from the constant stimulation and allow it to rest and reset

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Dopamine detox has become an increasingly popular term in recent years, as people are recognizing the negative effects of constant stimulation and the need to take a break from the constant flood of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward, and is released in response to things like food, sex, and drugs. However, in our today’s modern climate, we are constantly bombarded with stimuli that trigger dopamine release, such as social media, video games, and streaming services. 

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A dopamine detox is essentially a period of time where you intentionally reduce or eliminate the activities that stimulate dopamine release. This can include social media, video games, television, junk food, sugar, and even caffeine. The goal is to give your brain a break from the constant stimulation and allow it to rest and reset.


The concept of a dopamine detox is not new. In fact, it is similar to the idea of a digital detox, which has been around for years. However, the focus on dopamine specifically is relatively new, and is based on research that suggests that constant dopamine stimulation can have negative effects on our mental health.

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One of the main benefits of a dopamine detox is that it can help to rewire your brain. When we are constantly exposed to stimuli that trigger dopamine release, our brains become desensitized to it. This means that we need more and more stimulation to feel the same level of pleasure or reward. Do you get that sense of restlessness when you’re bored? The mental chatter gets loud? The almost manic checking of your phone to see a notification? That’s it. By taking a break from these activities, we can reset our brains and become more sensitive to dopamine again.


Another claim of the dopamine detox is that it can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Hitting the hard reset when and taking a breather from the digital over stimulus can also greatly improve our mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.


I wanted to see the positive effects of this modern-day mental retreat myself, so I took the challenge on. But first, there are a few things that I had to do to get started. One, I had to identify the activities that are most likely to trigger dopamine release for me. Personally, these are using social media apps, music and video streaming platforms, and consuming junk food (sugar included). Next, I had to set a specific period of time that I will go without these activities AND COMMIT TO IT. This varies from person to person, but I believe the minimum time to see and feel the results is 1 week, but I pushed mine to 2. During this time, I had to focus on activities that do not trigger dopamine release, such as exercise, prayer time, reading a book, or spending time in nature (luckily, I live in Boracay so there’s a gorgeous beach to marvel at).


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The verdict:

The first few days felt like a torture. I was so used to listening to music from morning till night, yes, even up until I doze off to dreamland. Every moment in the day had a personal music scoring, but this time, nothing. It felt weird at first. It magnified my thoughts. Also, I noticed that I actually had A LOT OF FREE TIME. It shocked me at how much time I spent on my social media apps, just mindlessly scrolling away. I had to think of ways to better spend my time, one of our biggest resources on earth. I chose reading a book, visualization, and working out. But since I can’t listen to music, dancing was off my list, and I had to walk instead.


A few days in and I noticed my mental clarity increase. I wasn’t as restless as when I initially started, and my body feels more rested. I had deeper sleep (which resulted in much more vivid dreams), and I found myself feeling elated whenever I heard birds chirping by my balcony. I wasn’t so mopey when I felt bored, nor was I snappy with my reactions. I also became more active in seeking to do more meaningful things. I got to do so much chores and read my book, and I felt a sense of accomplishment from doing these. I also got to enjoy the simplicity of chatting with friends face to face, the scenic beach views, and the quietness of my days. Oh, and let’s not forget the diet. Since I was consuming mostly nutrient-dense, whole, and natural foods, I noticed my inflammation decrease, and since I upped my water intake, too (no soda, coffee, or juices), I observed my skin clear up and have a more natural glow. 


I wasn’t expecting much from my dopamine detox, but after my first round, I now refuse to see this as a one-time event. Instead, I see it as a lifestyle change that I intend to do every now and then. By reducing the amount of time I spent on activities that trigger dopamine release, I can honestly and sincerely say I have so much more appreciation for life’s simple joys.


A dopamine detox can be a valuable tool for improving your mental health and well-being. By taking a break from activities that trigger dopamine release, you can rewire your brain, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and improve your overall mood. If you are interested in trying a dopamine detox, I highly recommend you follow my simple steps and commit to it. As Anne Lamott said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”


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