The newest trending fast in today’s day and age is called a dopamine fast. In this, you don’t have to give up on your favorite foods but instead have to abstain from your favorite activities that you find pleasurable.
In dopamine fasting, people aim to reset their dopamine receptors by giving up on everything and anything that brings them pleasure. These include smartphones, gaming, junk food, Netflix, and even sex.
They usually subscribe to the philosophy that the more you are exposed to dopamine firing in your brain, the more you will pursue these activities to derive more amounts of dopamine.
This article, thus, covers all the information about resetting dopamine, ways to achieve it, and some frequently asked questions about the same.
How To Reset Dopamine?
Working towards resetting dopamine can take a lot of effort and practice. The first step to resetting dopamine or doing dopamine fast is to identify the impulsive behaviours you wish to reduce.
The most common ones include emotional eating, gaming, drug abuse, online shopping. Now that you have outlined the behaviour, follow a dopamine fasting schedule.
If you want to reduce social media or gaming addiction, then have a schedule where you only use them for a particular time. Also, make a plan to not use the device at all for a few hours every week per year.
Here are some more tips that can help you in resetting dopamine:
Get a Good Amount of Sleep
Sleep is essential as it gives time to your brain and the body to repair and reset their processes. When recovering from excess dopamine, sleep is even more important for recovery. In order to ensure you get enough sleep, set a sleep schedule and adhere to it.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates increase dopamine levels. Thus, it is best to reduce the intake of such food and instead eat foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
The best way to reset the dopamine and produce it naturally is by exercising. Your brain produces a limited amount of dopamine when you exercise, and this is naturally produced, unlike the dopamine spike, you witness when on social media.
Being in the here and now is essential for your mind to reset dopamine. This also decreases anxiety and thus stops you from engaging in behaviours like drug abuse or alcohol consumption which can spike dopamine levels in your brain.
Listen to music
When you are on dopamine fast, you may feel discontent. Instead of resorting to Gaming, social media use, or drug abuse, try listening to your favorite songs. Keep them handy especially when you have triggers for relapse.
Resetting the dopamine levels in the brain takes time and it cannot be done overnight. Thus, focus on getting better and do your best to live in a healthy way.
What is Dopamine?
In order to understand what dopamine is, we need to first understand what neurons are. Neurons are brain cells that carry messages from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain. The human brain consists of approximately 86 billion neurons on average.
These neurons communicate with each other by producing brain chemicals. These brain chemicals are called neurotransmitters. There are several types of neurotransmitters such as; dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc.
Dopamine is one of the most-studied neurotransmitters (Pascoli, et al., 2012). This is because dopamine has links to various kinds of human behaviour which includes motivation, and pleasure-seeking, and it plays a role in addiction behaviours. Dopamine also has a role in attention, memory formation, learning, movement, as well as our ability to anticipate pleasure.
Even though dopamine is widespread in the animal kingdom, high levels of it in humans are what make us unique. This high level of dopamine in humans contributes to our high levels of intelligence, as well as allows us to exist and form complex social interactions and circles. It helps us use language, and assists us in planning and setting goals (Diamond, 1996).
Dopamine is created by relatively few numbers of neurons. These are located in the hippocampus, also known as the memory centre of the brain, and the amygdala, which is known as the fear centre of the brain. Dopamine is used by kidneys, pancreas, and immune cells. Thus, its use is also in systems outside the central nervous system (CNS).
What is Dopamine Fasting?
Dopamine fasting refers to applying stimulus control behaviours to reduce addictive behaviours. It does not mean that we are reducing dopamine, we are just reducing the erratic release of dopamine in our brain which is unnatural. One way to do so is to remove the stimulus (disabling notifications) or engage in behaviours that are incompatible with the stimulus (going for a swim instead of using your phone for long hours).
Benefits of Dopamine Fasting?
Dopamine fasting increases the number of dopamine receptors to regulate dopamine activity. It reduces addiction and reduces the exposure to stimuli leading to addiction by a great frequency. It reduces overstimulation and increases concentration, focus as well as working memory capacity.
The Role of Dopamine in Overstimulation
Dopamine plays a vital role in overstimulation. Dopamine is the chemical that our brain releases which makes us “feel good”. Whenever we do something rewarding, our brain releases dopamine. For the most part of human history, dopamine has been existing since the hunter-gatherer days of our ancestors.
However, our ancestors’ brains used to release dopamine when they had a fresh kill, or when they gathered berries. In today’s age, social media and junk food have made dopamine more readily accessible which can lead to addiction.
Why is Overstimulation Harmful to Us?
We are more likely to be overstimulated because they can tap into their dopamine reward system with little or no effort. When they are bored, they can just endlessly scroll on social media and find notifications waiting for them. If they are hungry, their refrigerator always has plenty of junk food available.
Overstimulation trains the brain to think of these activities as a necessity. We are training to get addicted to the dopamine and our brain will do anything to get the dopamine hit. Sometimes even at our own expense by leading to procrastination and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Social Media and Overstimulation
The main reason for hotwire dopamine releases, as well as overstimulation, is social media. When you get a notification from Instagram or Twitter, your brain gets a rush of dopamine which makes you feel good. This release of dopamine, when continued, keeps the brain hooked on these social media apps.
Eventually, you hit a positive feedback loop where social media does not make you happy. So you seek other places to get the dopamine hit. In essence, you become a slave to your own dopamine system and this hijacks your natural reward system.
How Can We Regulate Our Stimulation Levels?
Probably the best way to reduce overstimulation is by meditating. Meditation helps to slow down the overstimulated brain and helps it focus on the present moment.
Another way to reduce or regulate overstimulation is by doing a dopamine detox or dopamine fast. Limit your screen time, and turn off the notifications of several apps. Exercise regularly, go for a walk, or read a book to keep the dopamine receptors balanced.
The article covered in-depth how to reset dopamine. It also answered what science has to say about dopamine fasting, the role of dopamine in social media and Overstimulation, and how to naturally offset excess dopamine release in the brain.
Frequently Asked Questions: How to Reset Dopamine?
What is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)?
A technique based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is known as Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). Here, you expose yourself to the stimulus (app notifications) but don’t give in to the temptation of dwelling on them for hours. Use mindfulness, and try to manage your dopamine levels with the help of control and willpower.
What happens when there is too much dopamine being produced?
The symptoms of high dopamine levels include; mania, excess energy, anxiety, as well as increased irritability. Varying levels of dopamine also play a role in the causation of schizophrenia, addiction disorders, as well as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Can dopamine and serotonin improve your mood?
It is usually serotonin that plays a role in regulating moods and causing happy moods. Dopamine does not regulate moods but plays a role in stimulation, and memory, as well as helping us stay focused.
Is there a test to assess dopamine levels?
Certain blood tests do measure dopamine levels. However, these tests do not inform doctors about how the brain reacts or responds to dopamine. In some diseases, a person’s body does not manufacture dopamine transportation. Hence, doctors do not assess dopamine levels with blood tests but diagnose the condition on the basis of the symptoms reported by the person.
Diamond, A. (1996). Evidence for the importance of dopamine for prefrontal cortex functions early in life. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 351(1346), 1483-1494.
Pascoli, V., Turiault, M., & Lüscher, C. (2012). Reversal of cocaine-evoked synaptic potentiation resets drug-induced adaptive behaviour. Nature, 481(7379), 71-75.