It’s not actually possible to completely “fast” or eliminate dopamine from your body with lifestyle changes – but you can reset your brain with dopamine fasting. What I mean by this is that dopamine fasting is a practice where you are not reinforcing addictions and replacing them with positive behaviours, thoughts and feelings. This can be done by way of NoFap where you take breaks from stimuli bombardment, remove negative stimuli and replace it with positive ones.
The first thing to note is this…
You can’t “fast” from a naturally occurring brain chemical
One thing that needs to be understood is that the dopamine fast has very little to do with either fasting or dopamine since dopamine is a chemical that does not decrease with fasting and is used to describe a mechanism that explains how addictions can become reinforced – the phrase should not be taken literally. Unfortunately, many people do take it literally and that is the basis of a big misconception.
The dopamine fast is a method where we become less dominated by unhealthy stimuli such as texts, social media notifications, cell phone beep and rings and all other tones associated with living in a modern, technology-centric society.
What we should do is allow our brains to take resets and breaks to avoid potentially addictive bombardments instead of automatically responding to reward-inducing cues, which provide us with an immediate but short-lived shot of ‘dopamine’. The idea is to allow ourselves to find pleasure in doing simpler or more natural activities. Thus, we will regain control over our lives and be better able to address compulsive behaviors that may be interfering with our happiness and over-all mental state.
Here are the six compulsive behaviours that respond to a dopamine fast:
- emotional eating
- excessive internet usage and gaming
- gambling and shopping
- porn and masturbation
- thrill and novelty seeking
- recreational drug use
Furthermore, the dopamine fast can be used to help control any behaviors that are causing you distress or negatively affecting your life. Dopamine is one of the body’s neurotransmitters, and is involved in our body’s system for reward, motivation, learning, and pleasure.
While dopamine does rise in response to rewards or pleasurable activities, it doesn’t actually decrease when you avoid overstimulating activities, so a dopamine “fast” doesn’t actually lower your dopamine levels – it is about a change in mindset. You are changing your mindset for the better.
Many people have unfortunately misinterpreted the science and concept of the dopamine fast. People are viewing dopamine as if it was heroin or cocaine in the sense that they are “fasting” to give themselves a break from the pleasures that are negatively affecting them. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way at all. Dopamine fasting is simply a technique to reduce stress and engage in mindfulness-based practices as to remove oneself from a negative environment.
One should start a fast in a way that is minimally disruptive to your lifestyle. For example, we could practice dopamine fasting for a couple hours at the end of or even the beginning of the day, on the weekends or even one or two weeks per year such as going on a vacation.
However, people are adopting ever extreme and sometimes unhealthy versions of the dopamine fast – based on the misconceptions on how dopamine works in our brains. This is a serious problem because the misunderstandings of science can create maladaptive behaviors with negative outcomes.
Us human beings are creatures that need social interaction. Human interaction (unless it is negative) is in the category of healthy activities that are supposed to replace the unhealthy ones, such as surfing social media for hours each day. Thus, taking time out for mental rejuvenation is never a bad thing.
The original intent behind the dopamine fast was to provide a rationale and suggestions for disconnecting from days of technology-driven frenzy and substituting it with more simpler activities to help reconnect us with ourselves and others.
The idea of a dopamine fast is not anything new. In fact, most religions suggest a day of rest so that you can reflect and reconnect with family and the community. Furthermore, thousands of years of meditation also suggests that a mindful approach to living reaps many health benefits. Unfortunately, the modern wellness industry has become so profitable that people are creating snappy titles for age-old concepts such as the Sabbath.
REDUCE STRESS AND ENGAGE IN MINDFULNESS (AS YOUR DOPAMINE FAST):
FIRST REDUCE STRESS BY HAVING A COPING STRATEGY:
Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:
- Take a time-out. Try meditation, listen to music, get a massage, learn a relaxation technique or just meditate. Clear your head by stepping away from the problem and coming back to get at a later time when you are calmer, relaxed, and have a fresh mind.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make the conscious effort towards having positive and happy thoughts instead of negative ones. This will help you improve your mental state.
- Eat healthy with well-balanced meals. A healthy body is a happy body as I say. Eat right to keep your body and mind running in to condition.
- Get enough sleep. Get as much sleep and rest as possible, if you get little sleep then that can lead to stress and being stressed leads to little sleep. It will be a never-ending cycle. So get the rest you need.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. These two things together or separately can contribute to anxiety or even aggravate it and also trigger panic attacks.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly as part of your stress management system throughout the day or take a few minutes to yourself to practice this technique.
- Count to 10 slowly. This is another stress management technique when you go on time out and count to 10 slowly. Repeat this as many times as possible.
- Exercise daily. Maintain your healthy by exercising daily and to increase your energy.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, just try your best in earnest effort and that will count for something.
- Welcome humor. Have a good laugh since laughter goes a long way and also helps you to destress.
- Get involved. Get active, volunteer, be a mentor or coach – this creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Learn to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can. Place things into perspective and see if they really are things to be so stressed about.
- Learn what triggers your stress and anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
TRY STAYING HEALTHY AND WORK OUT AS A WAY TO MANAGE STRESS:
- Distract yourself: This can be with music, audiobooks or even YouTube. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun: If you enjoy it then you will do it more often. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Take a walk: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals: Aim for consistency in your daily life rather than perfection. It’s better to walk every day for even just 15-20 minutes than to wait until ‘you have enough time to do it such as the weekend. Frequency in workouts and routine is also important as suggested by scientific data.
- Have a workout friend: It is often easier to keep on track with your exercise routine when you have motivation through a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient: You can’t do or finish all of this overnight. Take it one step at a time and one day at a time. It can sometimes take a few weeks to get into the routine of things.
FIVE WAYS TO BE MORE MINDFUL (credit: u/findurapiotr):
Focus on your concentration
Concentration is the core of mindfulness. Think of it as an active force in the practice and mindfulness being passive. Concentration is the anchor and mindfulness is the ship. You’re the captain and in charge of where you set the anchor (concentration). In this case, we need to consciously decide to focus on your breathing.
In the beginning, you’ll see your concentration wander to different thoughts and sensations, distracting you from your breath. Your mind will literally be all over the place every few seconds. This is totally normal. When you become aware that your mind wanders, that is your mindfulness acting like the observer.
Just practicing this alone will simply quiet the mind, which can bring a sense of peace and happiness. Concentration is the first step in order to improve the practice of mindfulness. You’ll soon start noticing when your mind wanders (was it a thought or feeling?) as opposed to allowing your mind to race.
Pick your object of concentration
When you start developing concentration, you will want to pick an object of meditation. I highly suggest practicing mindful breathing. The simplest form of mindful breathing is 4-7-8 breathing.
Whether you’re at your desk, running between errands, or a nurse charting, just stop what you’re doing and practice mindful breathing. Focus your concentration on each exhale and inhale and let your mind quiet down. If your mind is still racing and wandering, understand that it’s okay, don’t judge, and keep practicing. Consistency brings results.
Don’t be overly critical
Mindfulness is an observer. You shouldn’t be passing judgment. Openly accept everything; that includes your thoughts, feelings, and sensations that actively pop into your mind. These are just simply distractions to your concentration that will subside as your mind quiets overtime. Remember, don’t get frustrated when you lose focus often. These are all stepping stones to develop your mindfulness.
Get comfortable with sitting
Sitting meditation is like returning home to give full attention to and care for our self. Adopt a daily practice of sitting in a quiet distraction-free zone. This is the foundation of meditative practice and is essential to get to the point of a quiet mind. After you learn breathing and concentration, seated meditation will aid your efforts to achieve an empty mind.
We’re taught to multitask, move quickly, and be as productive as possible. We’re used to rushing around all day and simply forget there is another way to live. It is highly beneficial to analyze your daily habits, finding opportunities to practice mindfulness.
With that being said, mindfulness will take time to develop, and patience is the virtue to have for this journey. At first you won’t close your mind and have confetti drop from the sky. You will feel a little more present and a little more alive. With practice mixed with patience, you’ll notice your ability to be mindful will improve. Remember, mindfulness is just like a muscle. The more you train the muscle, the stronger and more efficient it becomes. The muscle that you’re growing is mindfulness, and with proper training, it’ll develop into a powerful tool for peace and happiness in your life.
Remember, being mindful is available to you at all times. Your mind is always with you; you just need to choose when to become aware. If you keep practicing to just learn to stop and follow your breath, you’ll transform how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Let go of everything. The more consistent you become, the easier it’ll be and the better you’ll begin to feel.
Be mindful, not mind full.
IF DISTRACTIONS ARE YOUR PROBLEM THEN REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THEM:
1. Get rid of the background noise: Sometimes background noise or even music can be a bigger distraction than you realize. Especially a person that gets easily distracted.
2. Have a mantra or quote to calm you down: Have a cue or saying where when you see it, you get a signal to relax and calm your mind.
3. Clean up your space: A dirty workspace can be a big distraction. Clean up your home or office speak – make it comfortable and well lit so that you are in a space that is optimal for productivity.
4. Take it one thing at a time: If you feel over-whelmed by just too many things to do then just stop and focus on a single talk until it is completed.
5. Switch off your cell phone: Or if you can’t turn off your ringer for whatever reason, shut off the tweet/text/e-mail alerts, especially if you know you jump every time you hear it.
6. Prioritize. Go through your daily tasks and prioritize effectively. If something doesn’t absolutely need to be done today then leave it for tomorrow.
7. Use the Internet only when needed: If you know you’ll only need it for a specific tasks then once that task is completed then unplug the internet, or move to another room and continue to do your work. This will help you with the urge and distractions of the internet.
A dopamine fast is totally different that what you would ordinarily think. Dopamine fasting is simply a technique to reduce stress and engage in mindfulness-based practices as to remove oneself from a negative environment. So, whatever your trigger is or a combination of – learn to manage those triggers effectively so that you can be productive, stress and anxiety free.