What is dopamine fasting?
Scientifically, dopamine fasting is a practice of managing addictive behavior and habits by limiting them for specific periods of time and abstaining from these habits or impulsive and destructive actions that form these habits. The goal is to restore balance and develop the ability to not react to triggers that encourage addictive behavior.
Simply put, dopamine fasting is when you intentionally distance yourself from addictions or uncontrolled behavior.
It may sound quite obvious, but it may not be as easy as you think. Some destructive forms of behavior are easy to recognize, such as overeating, procrastination, or overindulging in sweets. Other dopamine-stimulating behaviors can be much harder to identify – such as an unhealthy dependency on others for your emotional well-being or losing focus every time a new message comes in.
The idea behind dopamine fasting is that if you avoid actions that stimulate the production of "cheap" dopamine over an extended period, you can "reboot" your brain and rid yourself of addictive behavior that negatively affects your life. But this is not about giving up everything, asceticism, or missing out on life's joys. It's about focusing on the right habits, your values, and being able to resist quick destructive impulses, as well as noticing and controlling them.
What is the science behind dopamine fasting?
Dopamine fasting is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT practices, based on stimulus control, can help you reduce the likelihood of engaging in addictive behavior. To avoid boring you with terms, let's give an example of stimulus and behavior: when your phone plays a sound or notification from a Whatsapp group, you take your phone and click on the message to open it. The sound or notification is the stimulus, and opening the message is the behavior. We believe that many people have experienced such patterns, but not many have thought about how to take control of them.
How to take care of yourself and start practicing dopamine fasting?
To begin, take a few days to become aware of yourself and your actions as much as possible. Try to analyze what concerns you the most and what you would like to work on the most.
Create a list of behavior patterns you want to change and assign each pattern a rank (for example, from 1 to 10, where 1 is the least worrisome).
For instance, you may find that you drink a lot of sugary soda and want to reduce your consumption, but it doesn't really bother you that much (maybe it's a 3), while you spend too much time on social media, tracking comments (perhaps you'll assign this habit a solid 7).
Work on one pattern at a time. You can start with lower-ranking patterns if you think it will be easier to begin, or if you're really determined, start with the worst of the worst.
How to work on a pattern? It all depends on your habit, but here's an example: if you drink a lot of sugary beverages, count how many you drink in a day. Let's say it's 6. That's what we'll work with. Be aware of yourself, observe and notice how you got the desire to buy a drink or go for it. What was the trigger? You can even try to write it down and keep a mini-journal.
Every time you buy or drink a beverage, try to do it consciously, not automatically. As you observe, try to reduce the amount day by day. If you realize that you can fight this impulse and instead of sugary soda, you can take herbal tea or any other sugar-free drink, it's your small victory.
Every time you refuse "cheap" dopamine, you break the chain of unconscious behavior and take control of your actions.
A little tip from us: it's always easier with a community. Find like-minded people and create a "circle of interests," perhaps this will make it easier for you to find the strength to start fighting impulsive and addictive behavior.
We want to end this article with the following thought: if you allow yourself to feel lonely, don't hang on your phone, find pleasure in simpler and more natural activities, food, and drinks, it will help you regain control of your life and better cope with compulsive behavior that may hinder your happiness.
And don't forget that self-care is a priority.