Dopamine is one of the many feel-good chemicals in the brain that is the driving force behind our desires and cravings. It’s the chemical that compels us to do whatever it is that we enjoy doing.
For example, let’s say you’re at work doing whatever it is you do at work. Your phone dings, signaling that you have a text message. You immediately feel a sense of pleasure, thinking, “I wonder who that is.”
You stop working and grab your phone immediately to check it out. Depending on who it is, you’ll feel anything from exited to disappointed.
Let’s look at the situation a bit closer.
When you heard that text message “ding”, your brain associated that with pleasure. This is likely because over time, you’ve associated text messages with pleasure. So, your brain gives a boost of dopamine when you hear that “ding”. You feel that dopamine boost and immediately stop what you’re doing at work to check your messages.
It’s that boost that you can become addicted to, regardless of whether you enjoyed reading that text or not. Then, your dopamine levels drop, and you get back to work. But later you hear another “ding”, and the cycle repeats itself all day long.
This can happen over and over with all sorts of things throughout the day and evening.
What Is A Dopamine Fast?
Fasting means abstaining, so a dopamine fast means abstaining from most of your favorite things that bring you feelings of happiness. But you’re not abstaining just to deny yourself the pleasures of your life. That’s not the point of a dopamine fast.
Essentially, people choose to undergo this kind of fast to decrease their bad habits.
What kinds of things do people abstain from in a dopamine fast?
- Technology, including phone, tablet, computer
- Video games
- Favorite foods
- Watching television
- Other things that you get the most pleasure out of
By avoiding the things that give us the most dopamine boosts for a time, we allow the brain to rewire those neural connections. The connection decreases in intensity or is eliminated entirely, helping you not associate happy feelings with whatever that stimulus was.
Chasing Bursts Of Dopamine
It’s easy to get in the habit of going around chasing bursts of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that fuels our wants and desires. It keeps us going, but if we’re not careful, we can fall into bad habits. This could mean scrolling social media time and time again throughout the day, getting little boost of dopamine at the thought that will discover something amazing.
Or it could be that excitement at the thought of having something that has a ton of sugar in it – like a jelly-filled donut. Or continually checking your email thinking that the most amazing message will come through.
It could also be chasing the dopamine boost that comes with substances that you can become addicted to, such as cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. The difference with these though, is that these substances actually increase your dopamine levels more than the stimuli we’ve already discussed. This may sound great, but it’s not. Once your brain gets accustomed to these harmful substances, it can crave them uncontrollably, leaving you continually chasing after “just one more”.
How To Do A Dopamine Fast
The first thing you can do is make a list of those things that you get the most pleasure out of daily. Then decide how long you’d like to do this dopamine fast. Many people start off with a 24 hour fast, but some decide to go longer. The one exception that experts state that you should not abstain from is connections with other people. Hanging out with your loved ones it’s not something that you want to ditch.
Start your fast in the morning and keep your list handy. It’s also a good idea to keep a journal during your fast to record your thoughts and feelings about the experience. You may learn how dependent you have become upon technology or certain types of food.
A dopamine fast is a great way to change your relationship with this powerful chemical. When you remove your sources of wants and desires, you break the habit of relying on them to feel good. This doesn’t actually increase your dopamine levels though. It simply decreases your over reliance on them to maintain happy feelings throughout the day.
Feel Happy For No Reason At All
Dopamine bursts may not solve all your problems and it may not even cause you to feel a lot happier. The reason is because it doesn’t actually control how much you enjoy something. But it can help you from chasing that dopamine boost all day long and associating happiness with whatever it is you’re doing. It may help you feel happier for no reason at all, which is a wonderful thing.
When you complete your dopamine fast, your associations will be different. You may hear that text message ding and rather than immediately grab your phone feeling all excited, you pause and think. You realize that you’re not going to look to that message to feel a source of happiness in the moment. You might decide to just let that phone message sit there until later.
Dopamine fasting may give you a sense of more control over your life and your emotions. It can increase your resistance to temptation to rely on external sources for your happiness.
Lastly, let your loved ones know if you’re going to be fasting from your technology. That way if they don’t hear from you right away, they’ll understand why. Make it a regular habit in your life, and you’re likely to experience less of a rollercoaster ride emotionally. You’ll feel more empowered and centered, and that will feel exceptionally good.