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,
What I Learned from Being (Mostly) Alone for a Month
Being alone can be so scary--I did it for a whole month. Here are some things that helped me stay motivated and pass the time.
This past November, I traveled from California to upstate New York for an artist residency. I was scheduled to live in the woods in a big house alone for an entire month. It was terrifying. For the past couple of years, I had found myself deeply afraid of being by myself. I turned to my friends or my boyfriend to ensure that my evenings were filled with something. I always made plans to avoid being alone, though many evenings I was irritable and exhausted and should have stayed in. I even thought I might be dating someone to ward off loneliness. That’s not the kind of person I want to be. I want to be able sit with myself. I want to be able to love myself enough to be alone. The time alone was honestly a way to test myself.
Now we're all about to be tested over our ability to spend time alone. These tips are especially with people who are single and alone in their homes, my guess is if you're in a house full of family you'll be looking for tips on how to get some time to yourself--which you should do!
Before being alone: set rules
Before the residency started, I promised myself a few things: I wouldn’t use social media while working (so as not to distract myself in the middle of a thought), I would not drink unless I had a visitor, and I would wait one hour before calling someone if I felt lonely. The first night was definitely a challenge. The darkness of the woods was overwhelming, and I wasn’t yet accustomed to the house and its noises and quirks. However, when I woke up the next morning to the beauty that is fall in the Hudson Valley, the stress eased. I only felt excited and determined.
Over the next week, I could feel all my anxiety about my relationship, friendships, career, money, and the future slip away. The following week, I felt completely at peace. It wasn’t a struggle to be alone. I loved it.
If you are about to spend some time alone, set some guidelines for yourself. Look at it as a challenge for ways to improve your life. Where can you challenge yourself to take a break? What's something you can work on because you have more time? Can you set chunks of time where you really embrace being alone? Can you reward yourself somehow when you do?
Then, be patient. It gets easier over time.
Tips for Being Alone
Here are some things I did to keep myself company:
- Set goals. First of all, I had a goal. I was there to make art, so I was motivated to wake up each day.
- Cook. When I wasn’t working, I cooked, which I find relaxing and fun and a productive way to take a break.
- Listen. The radio, music or a podcast played at all times. These stories and voices kept me company.
- Watch and read all the things. I watched stupid shows while I ate dinner, but I watched quality movies or read a book before bed.
- Sleep! I went to bed early.
- Find new habits. On my month alone, I drove several miles each morning to my favorite bakery and splurged on pastries, which I never do in Los Angeles. If you can't do something like that right now, try a walk, or a long coffee-making ritual. What's something that's completely outside of your normal routine? What can you slow down that you normally rush through?
- Make a schedule. This helps to fill your time. Because I had things to do, I felt healthier than I’ve been in a while. I didn’t look at my body the entire time. I had the same schedule every day. I never got bored. I told my friends I didn’t want to hear about drama back in Los Angeles. We didn’t text every day. I checked in and was present on social media, but I didn’t feel addicted to it. Instagram seemed boring and irrelevant for the most part. I didn’t miss anyone.
Time Alone is a Gift
Usually it’s impossible for people with families or regular jobs to take a month out of their normal life, and while at the moment it's mostly not welcome, we can also think of the challenge as a gift. We are all capable of making changes, figuring out how we feel our best, and adapting to our environment (this is both a good and bad quality). I’m back in Los Angeles now, and it’s stressful. I don’t feel at peace anymore. Real life is full of unexpected events that are annoying and distracting. I haven’t completely changed my life here in LA, but the shifts I made have stuck with me. I keep a more consistent schedule. I keep my podcasts on at home when I’m alone. Most importantly though, because of my experience, I know I can be alone, and I like to be alone. This feeling is empowering, and it can’t be taken away.
Homemade DIY body scrubs are the most underrated gifts of all time. They take two seconds, they’re cheap af, they’re super pretty, and they are the MOST luxurious Mother’s Day present around.
EASY DIY MOTHER’S DAY SCRUB
Homemade body scrubs are the most underrated gifts of all time. They take two seconds, they’re cheap af, they’re super pretty, and they are the MOST luxurious. You’ll feel super crafty and the mama + other caregiving ladies in your life will feel so pampered. (I like to make several at a time and give them out to all of the women I love as often as possible.)
Here are the BASICS.
HOW TO MAKE A DIY SCRUB
- Start with your jar/jars. Use it to measure your sugar. If you’re filling 4 jars that are 4 ounces each, for example, you’ll want to scoop sugar with the jar and into a big bowl four times.
- Go crazy with the mix-ins. Some easy faves: coconut oil, olive oil, honey, coffee grounds, sea salt, shredded coconut, essential oils, tea, and my personal favorite: any old but delicious body scrub you have sadly dying in your bathroom that just needs some love and fresh new friends.
- Work your scrub ingredients together like you’re making dough. Or granola. Or… sugar scrub. It’s up to you how you want the consistency. Use less wet ingredients to make it light and fluffy, and more if you want it super oily and moisturizing (great for gifting to someone with more mature skin).
- For the essential oils, go 5-10 drops at a time, stir well, and sniff!
- Scoop into jars et voila. You can get fancy and add tags with your ingredients and instructions, or you can indulge your giftee in the following conversation about fresh homemade self-care:
DIY SCRUB TIPS
- Keep the product as dry as possible, water will make it mold. The best way to do this is to scoop some out into a small bowl and take that into the shower with you.
- Keeping it in the fridge will make it last forever (not really but a much longer time), but you may need to let it sit at room temperature before using. Cold scrub is especially lovely for beach mamas and mamas with over-heated itchy skin!
- It can be really fun to DIY a DIY. So for each wash, mama can pull out a few scoops of the scrub and customize however she wants with fresh mix-ins like yogurt, aloe, avocado, clay, salt, ground oats. These are one-time use ingredients so it’s best to stir them into a batch that you’re using right away.
- Get ready to be greasy. Your tub/shower too. Scrubs are the best at night, followed by wrapping up in as many comfy things as possible that can hang with a little bit of oil, like several towels or a robe. Or a robe made of towel omg. Otherwise, just towel off any excess!
- Yes the oil can go in your lady parts (maybe not the scrub though) and yes it is like lube and yes it is super sexy. Enjoy. (Please note: it may also break condoms. You can name your baby after SW though.)
- Scrubs can also be used on the face (be gentle) and you can scoop it straight into the bath tub or scrub your body then sit in a hot bath mmm.
DIY SCRUB RECIPE
Here’s a super easy starter recipe that makes two pint jars:
- 4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 20-30 drops essential oil like lavender or peppermint
- Stir well, sniff well, and test on your arm to see if you like the consistency. Adjust and scoop into jars!
Now go love on all of the women in your life that love on you!