Over the years, I have always shared a keen interest in psychology and how our minds work. In fact, if it weren’t for my father, who urged me to go to business school and only agreed to support me in my studies if I did so (thanks, Dad, I guess), I would have pursued a major in psychology (maybe someday still…).
Things have turned out as they have, and I’m content and happy with where my life is today. Regardless, the interest still remains. Admittedly, being addicted to video games as a teenager and most likely alcohol while at uni (who wasn’t, really? ;)), I have always striven to understand how addiction works.
As we already know, addiction does not necessarily need to stem from substance use or abuse. Social media, games, phone addiction, and binge eating are all forms of addiction as well.
So, what is addiction really? In essence, it’s any activity or substance that leads to large releases of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most associated with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
Being able to pinpoint the root cause of addiction led me to explore further and come across the idea of a dopamine detox. A dopamine detox is the practice of abstaining from any and possibly all activities that lead to substantial releases of dopamine.
So I’ve decided to give it a go… The effects? The first week was literally nothing short of dying of boredom, taken to the next level. When you cut away all stimulation, it becomes really difficult to do anything at all - you just don’t feel like it.
What saved me was the ability to go outside and take a walk, or rather walk and keep walking because there’s nothing else to do .
Over time, after about 2-3 weeks, I noticed that I started to derive more pleasure from each walk. At times, I began to just stop and enjoy the moment, enjoy what’s in front of me, enjoy life (being mindful?).
Like with anything, the practice became easier over time, and I noticed that things I usually found boring started to become much more alive and interesting. After about a month, I found myself being able to focus much more and for extended periods of time, without feeling bored. My productivity at work increased, and I actually started to enjoy my work more!
I think the idea of a dopamine detox, however merciless it can prove to be at the beginning, is something that everyone should try at least once in their life. If you do try, don’t give up, it gets easier over time, and it’s well worth the effort!
How about your experiences? Have you tried this practice? How did you find it?