I Failed Miserably at Doing a Dopamine Fast, and You Should Too.
What Is a Dopamine Fast?
A “dopamine fast” is a fancy way that Silicon Valley + the Times are trying to brand the idea of taking a break from everything that makes your brain release dopamine (which essentially makes you happy) in order to break your addiction to said dopamine. In other words, we’re actually just all grumpy because we’re too happy, and we need to take breaks from being happy to remember that we’re happy. Love it. Sooooo super privileged but aren’t all self-help things? I am also in the privileged position of having burnout, so I decided to do this creepy sounding fast asap.
(And we are all in the unprivileged position of being stuck indoors, which means it's the perfect time to teach yourself how to be naturally happier!)
How to Do A Dopamine Fast
A dopamine fast is typically described as no eating, no screens, no music, no exercise, no touch or sex, no work, no eye contact, and no talking more than is absolutely necessary. But the idea is that you’re cutting out as much of what stimulates you as possible; in a full dopamine fast you would be floating in space or something.
Here is what I did (lol “did” is an overstatement already). I let my phone die around 4 pm Saturday, the day before the fast. This immediately set in motion the mild panic attack that would stay with me the remainder of the weekend. I listened to so much music and got so high as if both would be never again available to me. I worked on my computer until it died and then the panic attack got more intense. I plugged the computer back in and started binge watching Surviving R. Kelly to ensure not one minute of restful sleep.
Then came Sunday, the day of the fast (lol again to the idea of a whole “day” of this). I woke up and meditated without a timer, which made me competitive with myself to get the timing right but then also paranoid I wasn’t getting the timing right. Surprisingly I survived this, but don’t be fooled—it wasn’t easy. I went out and got a coffee because I thought I was dying, and this is totally breaking the rules. No eye contact and lots of awkward laughter. We got back to the house and I built a fire for what felt like 17 hours but turned out to be less than an hour. I stared into the fire for another 12 hours (30 minutes). I plugged my phone in because Elana needed some photos taken but kept it on airplane mode with no wifi okay?! Jk I saw my sister texted me and I immediately facetimed her to panic about my fast, which I was already excelling at and it wasn’t even noon yet!
Okay but then I shut my phone for real and spent the next few hours rotating between staring at the fire, walking around, writing notes in a journal (all work or to-do related), getting high, and eating. Elana and I also walked through a beautiful art park THANK GOD. But I smoked so so much you guys. Way more than normal. That’s how hard I was trying to cope with just doing nothing, while doing plenty!! And I had to eat because enough torture okay?
By 8 pm I was back to Surviving R. Kelly, aka more rule-breaking.
Why You Should Do a Dopamine Fast
Wow. I nailed it right? I would give myself like a 45%, a fat F. Still worth it? SO WORTH IT. Cannot even tell you. Cannot wait to do it again. I felt so much peace by the end of the day. I felt so excited to try it again soon, hopefully with more success. And on Monday--the absolute worst day of the week why does it even exist—I was incredibly productive and incredibly grateful for everything.
Do you know how amazing music is?? And your phone? And computers? Omg.
DO IT. You will do such a better job than I did, and it will be so worth it. Try to keep these tips in mind, I think they helped me!
Tips for your detox:
- I was lucky to be staying in a really sweet pad for the weekend and it really helped. Make sure you make your space feel peaceful and comfortable, if you’re anything like me you will be desperate for both the entire time.
- Hide your screens. Seriously. I eventually had to give my phone to Elana and tell her not to let me have it. Let them die and have someone take your charger. Whatever it takes just get them far away from you.
- If you’re already a pro at controlling your screen time, find whatever else you reach for the most and take it away. Like weed or booze or food. You know what it is.
- Do the best you can. As you saw, I probably only covered half of what a real detox entails. I don’t understand these Silicon Valley robot humans but today I appreciate them too!
I know it's a hard time to do anything extra. But I bet if you shut your phone or computer for a few hours you’d like everything more. And that’s what we’re really after amirite?
Whatever it takes to stay happy right now,