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Rebooting Your Brain: The Science and Benefits of Dopamine Detox

In today’s world where distractions are everywhere our ability to focus has become a rare commodity. Instead of focusing on our goals, we might walk, grab a coffee, check social media. With passage of time, it feels like that there is mental barrier between you and your task due to this overstimulation, leading to frustrations, disappointment and low self-esteem.

Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry) 


What is dopamine?

It is a neurochemical present in brain that make us anticipate reward. It is the force that actually make us to act. For e.g., you will notice that when you achieve the expected award, you will feel empty and look for more, crave for more. This is all because of dopamine. Dopamine will be able to maintain this state of stimulation. Things for e.g., watching video game, engaging in social media brings in this state of stimulation leading to impaired performance and decreased concentration. Dopamine has been labelled as molecule of more… because the more the triggers release the dopamine, the more we will want to have our next shot of dopamine. And This forms the basis of any addiction.

What is overstimulation and how it can affect the work?

When you are engaged in highly stimulating activities (social media, video games) your brain will keep demanding more and more stimulation. As it happens, important tasks take the back seat leading you into the stage of procrastination. Your brain keeps on playing with you, to remain in this state of overstimulation. How?

  1. Returning to work is easy- your mind will play on you to pretend that returning to work will be easy. your mind will convince you that you can get back to work any time, rather its more difficult in this situation to get back. So, watch out next time your brain is sending these kinds of signals.

  2. You can do it later- your mind will convince that there is plenty of time that you can do it tomorrow, next week or next month. So, if you don’t fight to this, it will become a habit.

  3. Excitement is not same as fulfillment- when you are engrossed in stimulating activities, your mind will keep on sending signals about the fun you are having which helps in maintaining engagement with that activity. Remember that this is excitement and it is different from being fulfilled i.e. feeling of inner peace.

  4. You are missing out- you get entrapped into the fear of missing out. It is based on the idea/feeling/illusion of having some control over your environment. But rather you ended up feeling overstimulated and distracted from important events of life.


Dopamine detox:

Different types of dopamine detox methods are:

48-hour dopamine detox

24-hour dopamine detox

Partial dopamine detox.

48-hour detox:

It means removing most or all sources of external stimulation for 48 hours. Some of the sources can be drugs/alcohol, internet, music, phone, social media, sugar/processed foods.

What should be done instead?

Going for a walk, journaling, meditation/relaxation, stretching exercise, reading.

In 24-hour, detox- is similar to 48 hr. detox but seems to be easier.

In partial detox involves, removing biggest source of stimulations.


How can we actually work upon this detox?

There are few steps to be taken to pursue this detox:

  • Identify your biggest distraction- this can be identified by introspecting ourselves. It could be by doing journaling, writing down what you can do while in detox and what you can’t do while in detox.

  • Adding friction- i.e., redesigning environment to make undesirable behaviors more difficult to engage in while making more desirable behavior easier to do. For e.g., if phone is distraction, put it on airplane mode, if youtube is distraction use df tube that remove all the suggestion and notifications.

  • Start first thing in the morning by establishing an early morning routine before becoming overly stimulated. This routine may include some stretching exercises, writing down goals of the day, 3 things you are grateful for, positive affirmations. This is helpful in improving the focus on the tasks.

How can we improve the focus on the important tasks?

  1. Simple routine will help you to condition your mind, feel more in control and lowering stimulating causes. For e.g., be at same place at the same time each day will help in building consistency and focus thus bringing in productivity.

  2. Choose a trigger- like make tea, before sitting at the desk- select a cue with which you can build correlation with your newer routine.

  3. Get started- it is believed that once you get started you will be eventually building momentum to keep going. So just get started and don’t worry about completing your task.

  4. Eliminate distractions- remove the distractions like social media platforms for a while is usually helpful.

  5. Work without interruptions, it is recommended to implement pomodoro technique between each work block.

  6. Thus, by consciously reducing exposure to excessive stimuli, individuals can retrain their brains to appreciate the subtleties of life and cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling existence. Remember that moderation is key, and finding a personalized approach to dopamine detox can lead to lasting improvements in focus, productivity, and overall happiness.

Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)  

Faith Hospital, Chandigarh
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