Sometimes unplugging ourselves from the constant stimulation our brains receive, is just what we need. Picture: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash
Sometimes unplugging ourselves from the constant stimulation our brains receive, is just what we need. Picture: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Here’s why I did a dopamine detox and why you should too

By Keshia Africa Time of article published Oct 13, 2021

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Earlier this year, I found myself struggling to focus on anything I put attention to for longer than ten minutes at a time. I would complete one small task and feel spent and wanting to take a break.

Things that I used to enjoy doing stopped bringing me joy. After watching a Youtube video, I realised what the issue was - my brain was overstimulated.

What I mean by that is I was high on dopamine. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter in your brain that is also known as the feel-good hormone. Your brain tends to associate experiences and various stimuli with reward and pleasure, and this is how dopamine reacts.

Because dopamine is the chemical that your brain associates with pleasure and desire, an excess of dopamine can cause your reward sensitivity to become numb.

As a millennial, my cell phone is practically glued to my hand most of the day. When I wake up in the morning, I start my day with a social media tour.

I start by checking WhatsApp and iMessage, move to Instagram and Twitter, followed by Facebook then TikTok, and occasionally Pinterest. All of this happens before I even get out of bed, and the social media tour repeats itself multiple times a day.

If I’m not consuming content on my cell phone, I have music playing while working or watching series while doing chores or working out.

What happened was that the social media tour and constant consumption of content online led to an increase and excess in my dopamine levels. This meant that the more I consumed, the less pleasure it brought me, which would leave me wanting more.

Dopamine is also the chemical in your brain that affects learning, motivation, sleep, mood and attention. This explains why, when you ‘consume’ too much dopamine, those areas are affected.

What is a dopamine detox?

The detox was created by Dr Cameron Sepah and takes the form of dopamine fast. It means ridding yourself of all stimuli to rewire your brain to enjoy activities that have become mind-numbing to you.

This can mean taking a break from sugar, shopping, gaming, excessive internet usage and gambling.

A dopamine detox can look different for everyone, but at its core, it has the same basic rule:

Spend uninterrupted time without the things that are stimulating to you.

I decided to go cold turkey, 24 hours without any internet and electronic devices. No cell phone, laptop, television, radio, or any device.

I spent the day soaking in some sun, I read two books and built a puzzle. I also slept a lot. Was it easy? No. Did it work? Absolutely.

For some people, a dopamine detox can take place for 24 hours when needed. For others, it can be one hour a day, every day.

What I found when I went back to electronics, was that I didn't feel the incessant need to pick up my phone every two seconds.

My focus had improved tenfold and I felt myself feeling more energised. I decided to commit to a dopamine detox once a quarter.

Through fasting from dopamine-producing activities, you can decrease your reward sensitivity back to neutral.

To gain a better understanding of the intricacies of how dopamine works, you can watch this video.

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