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- TATA AIG Team
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It is appropriately said that all things must be enjoyed in moderation. An excess of anything can disturb the equilibrium and keep your body and mind from functioning in their optimal condition. In the quick-paced life of today, individuals often forget the importance of mindful living and so can end up facing the brunt of uncontrolled indulgence. Therefore, aside from ensuring that your health insurance plan covers both physical and mental ailments, individuals also need to focus on taking care of both their mind and their body. Dopamine detox is one way to control harmful indulgent impulses.
Before understanding the technicalities of navigating through dopamine fasting, let’s understand what detox from dopamine means.
What is a Dopamine Detox?
To understand dopamine detox benefits, one must first learn what dopamine is. Dopamine is a kind of neurotransmitter in your brain that acts as a “reward centre.” It influences several bodily functions, including attention, learning, movement, motivation, mood, memory, sleep, etc. Considering this, dopamine fasting means fasting from activities that produce dopamine or “pleasure” for a specific period to decrease this reward sensitivity. This phenomenon emerges from acknowledging the perils of modern life in the bid to seek a modern solution. And so, one cannot reap the benefits of dopamine detox until learning of its genesis.
Dr. Cameron Sepah, the creator of dopamine detox, uses this technique in clinical practice on venture capitalists and tech workers. His intention was to rid the dependence of his clients on certain stimuli such as social media notifications, texts, and phone alerts. His research around the practice was centred on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Unfortunately, however, what he intended to accomplish with this concept is very different from what people perceive dopamine detox to be.
The concept behind Dr. Sepah’s detox from dopamine is for individuals to let themselves feel bored or lonely or replace these with simpler activities instead of seeking quick “dopamine hits.” He identified six compulsive behaviours as the targets of his dopamine detox program:
Emotional Eating: This is when individuals eat to deal with their feelings instead of to satiate their hunger. For example, when someone eats to soothe or suppress negative emotions like stress, sadness, boredom, anger, fear, and loneliness.
Shopping and Gambling: When you win at gambling, your brain produces the “feel-good hormone”, a.k.a. dopamine. But frequent betting can cause our brains to become accustomed to this dopamine hit. In the case of shopping, individuals can become dependent on the endorphins and dopamine released when purchasing things.
Gaming and Excessive Usage of the Internet: It is easy to be dominated by unhealthy stimuli such as notifications, rings, beeps, and texts that accompany a modern, technologically-driven society. And so, following some dopamine detox rules with the time you spend surfing, scrolling, and gaming may help prevent addiction to these stimuli.
Masturbation and Porn: As dopamine detox involves fasting from pleasurable activities for a certain period, porn and masturbation also fall under the category of things you must abstain from.
Novelty and Thrill Seeking: To help an individual feel more grounded and balanced by being less influenced by their dopamine triggers, excitation and pleasure triggers must be avoided during dopamine fasting.
Recreational Drugs: Cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and amphetamines, among other commonly used substances, cause a neurochemical reaction that greatly increases the amount of dopamine released by brain neurons.
Dr. Sepah believed that when individuals fast from these activities that trigger the neurotransmitters of the brain, they can become less dependent on the emotional hits by dopamine which can occasionally lead to addiction or dependence.
This brings us to the next concern: why do you even need a dopamine detox program, and what are the dopamine detox rules?
Dopamine Detox Benefits
The idea behind dopamine detox is that when you allow yourself to feel bored and lonely or seek pleasure in doing more natural and simpler things, you can regain control over your life. Eventually, this can equip individuals with being able to better address their compulsive behaviours that are interfering with their happiness.
Detaching and unplugging oneself from impulsive behaviours can also potentially heighten one’s focus and provide greater mental clarity. This is because dopamine can sometimes distract individuals from achieving their goals.
To illustrate with an example, imagine that an individual has found a series that they truly enjoy. Now, it is alright to watch this when time permits. However, if you continue to watch this show by allowing it to mess with your sleeping schedule and compromise your work the next day, it may be time for a dopamine detox.
According to Dr. Sepah, individuals can use dopamine detox as a way of controlling behaviours that are distressing them or are negatively affecting their life. Now that we have learned of the benefits of dopamine detox, let’s look at how to go on a dopamine fast.
How to Do a Dopamine Detox?
There is no dopamine detox medicine. The practice is simple: during dopamine fasting, an individual avoids dopamine triggers for a certain period which can range from an hour to several days.
It requires an individual to refrain from any kind of arousal and particularly those from their pleasure triggers. Anything that stimulates the production of dopamine must be avoided.
Ideally, by the end of this dopamine detox program, individuals would feel more balanced, centred, and less affected by their usual triggers of dopamine hits. It is important to note, however, that a true dopamine detox – wherein an individual can stop all dopamine activity in the brain – is impossible to achieve. This is because the brain continues to produce dopamine all the time.
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