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Dopamine Detox

What is Dopamine Fasting ?


By reducing the brain’s feel-good chemical known as dopamine – cutting back on things like food, sex, alcohol, social media and technology – followers believe that they can “reset” the brain to be more effective and appreciate simple things more easily. Some even go so far as avoiding all social activities, and even eye contact.

The exercise, dubbed “dopamine fasting” by San Francisco psychologist Dr Cameron Sepah, is now getting increasing international attention. But what exactly is it? And does it work? As someone who studies the brain’s reward system, I’d like to share my knowledge with you.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger produced in the brain. It is sent around the brain conveying signals related to functions such as motor control, memory, arousal and reward processing. For example, too little dopamine can result in disorders like Parkinson’s Disease, involving symptoms of muscle rigidity, tremors and changes in speech and gait. One of the treatments for Parkinson’s is the drug L-DOPA, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and be converted into dopamine to help ease the symptoms.

Dopamine is also important in the reward system in the brain. It is activated by primary rewards like food, sex and drugs. Importantly, the brain’s reward system can “learn” over time – cues in our environment that we associate with potential rewards can increase the activity of dopamine even in the absence of an actual reward. So just being in a sweet shop and thinking about sweets can activate our brain’s dopamine.

This expectation and anticipation of rewards is called the “wanting” in neuroscience language. As one of the main symptoms of depression is “anhedonia” – the lack of wanting, interest and pleasure in normally rewarding experiences – dysfunctional dopamine regulation has also been linked to this disorder. Some treatments for depression, such as the drug bupropion, are designed to increase dopamine levels in the brain.

So, given the important role of dopamine in vital functions in the human brain, why would we want to fast from it? The idea of dopamine fasting is based on the knowledge that dopamine is involved in unhealthy addictive behaviours.

As described, dopamine underpins wanting. For instance, a drug addict may say they no longer want to take drugs. But when in certain places where drug-related cues are present, the brain’s wanting system kicks in and addicts are overcome with strong urges to take the drug. Dopamine fasters believe that they can reduce desires and craving for unhealthy and even unwanted behaviours by reducing dopamine.

Does it work?

First we need to be clear, it is certainly not advisable, even if we could, to reduce the amount of dopamine in the brain as we need it for everyday normal functions. Further, simply banning a particular reward, like social media, isn’t going to reduce the levels of dopamine per se, but rather it can help reduce the stimulation of dopamine.

Therefore it is possible to reduce the amount of dopamine activity. But the key to doing this is to reduce our exposure to the triggers associated with the rewards that initiate the wanting for the rewards in the first place. After all, it is these cues that initiate the craving and the desires to engage in behaviours that help us get the rewards. Thus just cutting out rewards doesn’t necessarily stop the brain from making us crave them – activating dopamine.

However, that this would “reset the brain” is not really correct – there is no way of even knowing what the baseline is. So from a neuroscience perspective, this is nonsense for the time being.

If you find that you want to cut down on what you feel are unhealthy behaviours, such as spending too much time on social media or overeating, then you could start by reducing your exposure to the environmental cues that trigger the desires to carry out the unhealthy behaviours.

For example, if you go on your phone too much in the evenings when you are alone, try turning off the notifications sounds. This way dopamine is not being activated by the cues and therefore not signalling the urges to pick up the phone. And if you think you drink too much alcohol – ending up in bars with work colleagues most nights of the week, try to go somewhere else in the evenings, such as the cinema.

The symptoms of unhealthy behaviours are similar to the signs of substance abuse. These might include spending the majority of the time engaging in the behaviour, continuing the behaviour despite physical and/or mental harm, having trouble cutting back despite wanting to stop and neglecting work, school or family. You may even experience symptoms of withdrawal (for example, depression, irritability) when trying to stop.

In these instances, you may want to think about removing the cues that stimulate your dopamine neurons – a sort of dopamine fasting.

Dopamine production can be excessive or deficient, resulting in mental health issues. Such diseases can be triggered by excessive amounts of stimulation, which can develop into addictions to particular drugs or activities.

Dopamine Detox

In the brain, dopamine is a kind of neurotransmitter. Neurons (nerve cells) emit a substance that allows them to convey messages to other nerve cells. Neurotransmitters are produced in specific areas of the brain, but their effects are felt throughout the body. Several unique dopamine pathways exist in the brain, one of which is important for the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour.It is a chemical messenger created naturally by the body that has an impact on a variety of behavioural and physical activities, including;

Dopamine Detox

A dopamine detox involves avoiding dopamine stimuli for a certain amount of time, which might range from an hour to many days. A person who is doing a dopamine detox must avoid any excitement, especially from pleasure triggers. During the detox, everything that boosts dopamine production is prohibited. A person should feel more focused, balanced, and less impacted by their regular dopamine triggers towards the conclusion of the detox. It’s crucial to emphasise, however, that a complete dopamine detox, in which a person effectively stops all dopamine action in the brain, is not conceivable.

Even when not exposed to particular stimuli, the human body creates dopamine on its own. A time of abstinence, or “unplugging” from the world, is a more realistic definition of the dopamine detox. It’s possible that doing so will have a favourable impact on people who use it on a regular basis. However, the phrase “dopamine detox” is problematic by definition and not scientifically accurate. According to Dr. Sepah, the term is not meant to be taken literally.

Distraction

Dopamine may be distracting, which might make it difficult for certain people to achieve their goals. It’s what leads to folks scrolling aimlessly on social media or binge-watching their favourite TV series over and over again. These unproductive compulsions keep you from focusing on job, health goals, house organisation, and other important things. People may be able to devote more time to the things that important to them if they consciously avoid these distractions.

Dopamine fasting

Dopamine fasting is a type of digital detox that involves refraining from addictive technologies, including social media, listening to music on technology platforms, and Internet gaming, for a period, and can be expanded to include social connection and food deprivation. The term’s origins are unknown; it was first popularised on YouTube in November 2018 by life coach “Improvement Pill.”

There are no specific stimuli that believers avoid, although it appears that cutting out screens, phones, and other electronic gadgets is extremely popular. Some individuals go beyond fasting to include eating and social interaction, setting apart days for monastic solitude, away from friends, family, and food. For example, technology entrepreneur James Sinka avoids music and gadgets, avoids artificial light, avoids meals and supplements, and refuses to interact with others.

Harvard experts have labelled the behaviour as a “maladaptive craze.” Others argue that it is based on a misunderstanding of how the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved in rewarding behaviour in the brain, works and how it may be influenced by conscious activity.

Dopamine fasting is not well defined in terms of what it comprises, what technology it requires, how often it should be done, or how it is meant to operate. Some advocates confine the procedure to shunning internet technology; others go as far as to prohibiting all work, exercise, physical contact, and unproductive discussion.

According to one report, the technique is about avoiding signs like hearing a smartphone ring that might inspire impulsive actions like staying on the phone after the conversation to play a game. Dopamine fasting is, in some ways, a backlash to technology companies that have designed their services to keep consumers hooked.

Also

Detractors argue that the overall concept of dopamine fasting is unscientific because the chemical is so important in daily life that reducing it would be harmful to a person, and removing a specific stimulus like social media would not reduce dopamine levels in the body, only the stimulation of them.

The concept that the brain may be “reset” by eliminating dopamine stimuli for a short period of time is “nonsense,” according to the researchers. Cameron Sepah, a proponent of dopamine fasting, thinks that the term is deceptive, explaining that the goal isn’t to lower dopamine levels in the body, but to diminish the impulsive actions that it rewards.

Dopamine detox in 21st century

In this current digital world where we are stuck in the web of social network a break is essential. To think clearly and relax mind. However, by avoiding some activities, such as scrolling through a smartphone and social networking sites for hours on end, people may be able to acquire a higher level of mindfulness, which has its own set of advantages. Stress alleviation, decreased blood pressure, and better sleep are just a few of the benefits.


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