Throughout the day, you might find yourself consistently putting off numerous tasks that you know are essential or beneficial, dismissing them with various excuses and deeming them boring. Consequently, you may be drawn to engaging in activities that contribute nothing to your life, merely serving as time-fillers. The good news is, there's a way to make challenging tasks seem easier and gain control over yourself. Let's explore what a dopamine detox is and how you can rejuvenate your entire life, making it more intriguing.
You probably don't experience any concentration issues when playing games on your computer or phone or browsing social media.
The reason for this is clear. Time-wasting requires little to no effort; it's easy.
On the other hand, activities and tasks that would nourish us are more demanding and require concentration—they're challenging. While some may not find regular work, exercise, solitude, or multitasking with different tasks burdensome, the majority struggle because once we label something as 'difficult and demanding' in our minds, the motivation to do it vanishes. So, is there a way to perceive challenging tasks as easy and exciting?
Dopamine, also known as the pleasure molecule, plays a role in various bodily functions, including movement, motivation, mood, and attention span.
It induces desire for things and provides the motivation to get up and do something. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation, and its levels rise when we anticipate receiving a reward from an action.
An experiment conducted by neuroscientists on mice demonstrates the powerful impact of dopamine on our bodies.
Researchers implanted electrodes into the brains of mice and placed a mechanism next to them. Whenever the mice pulled the lever on this mechanism, the researchers stimulated the reward system in their brains. Consequently, the mice began pulling the lever repeatedly for hours, refusing to eat or sleep until they collapsed from exhaustion.
Interestingly, when researchers reversed the experiment and inhibited dopamine release in the reward center of the brain, the mice became lethargic.
They showed little motivation even to stand up for a drink of water. Remarkably, when food or water was directly given to them, they continued to enjoy it. The key point is that the mice lacked the motivation to do it on their own—they needed external stimulation.
The funny part is that this dopamine dependency in mice is equally applicable to us.
Our brains largely prioritize our activities based on how much dopamine we expect to receive from them. For instance, if you struggle to release enough dopamine while doing homework, you lack the motivation and desire to do it. Consequently, your brain, by playing various games, subtly directs you to other activities that will release dopamine.
So, which behaviors release high dopamine levels?
In the simplest terms, any activity or action that you perceive has the potential for a reward at the end causes us to release higher levels of dopamine. The reason we experience high dopamine levels when dealing with the phone, watching TV, or playing games is precisely this. In each of these behaviors, we enter a kind of reward expectation, so we are constantly drawn to them. Thus, we are no different from mice repeatedly pulling the lever to experience another dopamine release.
"So what? It doesn't harm me. If I postpone things and make them difficult, it's my concern," you might say.
Yes, it is an individual matter and entirely related to our choices. However, it doesn't mean it doesn't harm us. Our brain doesn't consider whether the high-dopamine activities we engage in are harmful. To maintain the high dopamine release, it unconditionally directs us towards activities that will release more dopamine.
Be it spending time on your phone, playing games, constantly eating, or wanting to watch television, engaging in these activities releases high dopamine levels.
Consequently, our bodies become accustomed to this high dopamine level, even if we overindulge. Thus, we develop a dopamine tolerance and unintentionally harm ourselves because the dopamine level released during these activities is far from what we experience during activities that require effort, concentration, and work.
We become dopamine addicts, drawn only to things we've coded in our minds as easy and enjoyable.
If you realize you're sabotaging yourself and wonder if there's a way to correct this, trying a dopamine detox is recommended. While seemingly straightforward, dopamine detox is a challenging method of seclusion in today's world. To detox, you need to choose a single day, ban all stimulating activities, including no phone, no computer, no television, and even no music. The goal is to distance yourself from all these stimulating activities and learn to embrace the 'boredom.'
You might be saying, "What will I do all day in a scenario where I am deprived of everything I'm programmed to use almost every second?"
Try to imagine being alone on a deserted island after an accident. Moreover, you don't have problems like hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, or discomfort. You simply lack access to social media and any stimulating programs or devices to occupy you. While it may seem boring and pointless now, in such a situation, you could go for a walk, take a moment to see the beauty around you, try meditation, read a book, reflect on yourself, weigh things, remind yourself of your goals, and do many beneficial activities.
Additionally, without any distractions, you can experience how quickly and easily you can finish tasks you previously considered difficult and overwhelming.
You can prioritize things that are listed on your daily to-do list but are usually brushed aside in favor of trivial activities. Being without any distracting elements, you may notice how you sabotage yourself. Generally, the idea of spending an entire day away from technology might seem challenging and meaningless at first, but remember, when we realize something is poisoning us, taking radical steps and making radical decisions are necessary.
What dopamine detox does is deprive us of things we take great pleasure in and make less satisfying and challenging activities more appealing.
The goal of dopamine detox is to eliminate any stimulating activities we turn to when bored and, by accepting the 'boredom,' view activities we normally find boring or don't want to do as enjoyable. Detox advocates claim that the boredom we feel throughout the day will push us to do things we wouldn't normally do due to the lack of high dopamine, making activities seem more manageable. Ultimately, we will want to associate all activities that truly benefit us with higher dopamine levels.
We know that doing a complete dopamine detox every day is not possible.
However, we can all try it for just one day and who knows, maybe we can genuinely recognize that we constantly repeat behaviors that harm ourselves. In the following process, by prioritizing less dopamine-releasing actions and activities that are challenging and require effort, we can reward ourselves at the end of the day with an activity that releases high dopamine. Making difficult things easier is not impossible—the secret lies in prioritizing, self-control, and somewhat tricking our brains with dopamine!