Digital detox is what we do. We write about the benefits of time away from screens and put it into practice with our retreats and our founder’s public and private talks. But digital detoxes aren’t the only way to experience the benefits of screen-life balance, there are new trends every day including of late the idea of a dopamine fast. What’s that? Well, we’ve done the work for you to explain what a dopamine fast is, how to do one, and what you can get out of it.
What is dopamine fasting?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which creates motivation in the brain for various activities such as exercise, talking and TV. It rewards us for behaviours which we find enjoyable and so tells us that they are worth repeating. In the time before tech that was fine, it’s good to want to swim, talk, read or run more; but the tech CEOs of Silicon Valley have taken it one step farther by deliberately creating software which gives us a dopamine hit. So, dopamine fasting is a new trend which took off at the end of the last decade to avoid all of those behaviours in order to ‘reset’ your brain. Now, I don’t know about you but the idea of not talking, reading and just sitting inside bored for a weekend doesn’t appeal. Dopamine is a natural chemical so why don’t we just manage our dopamine the way our grandparents did?
How Silicon Valley is changing our brains
We’ve talked before about the ways that tech CEOs make their products ‘sticky‘. This is how they get us to stay on their apps for so long, we’re waiting for a dopamine hit; from a ‘like’, ‘comment’, ‘share’ or even a ‘streak’ on Snapchat. Each time we get one they reinforce our brains to stay on screens and then come back again time and again, in the same way slot machines work at a casino. This wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t already know about the negative impact of screens on our mental and physical health, with sleep, concentration and creativity being the worst hit. So, if we want to take back control of our brains and redirect our attention to a more fruitful place then we need to rebalance our reactions to screens – maybe by going on a occasional dopamine fast.
How to do dopamine fasting right
The kind of hits we get from social media and technology are fast and repetitive, so we’d recommend for the ideal dopamine fast you do a digital detox and try to replace the time you would be on your phone with slow-release enjoyable activities. But, just taking away your phone may not necessarily limit your dopamine if you spend your time watching TV or playing video games – so try and go properly analogue. Think bored teenager in the 80s! You could go for a swim, read a book or cook a long dinner. Anything away from quick gratification will give you the satisfaction of dopamine but in a far healthier and more productive way than simply a ‘like’. You could even use this time to reset your morning routine or incorporate more elements of reflection and exercise to an already busy life, perhaps a dopamine fast will even help you find time for a new resolution.