The Dopamine Detox Experience
NO JUNK FOOD! NO SOCIAL MEDIA! NO NETFLIX! NO ALCOHOL! NO NO NO! I know what you're all thinking, that's crazy talk and, for anyone that knows me, I’m a chocoholic, gin drinking, tiktoking, always dancing, movie loving gal, so all I could think was how in the hell was I going to do this? But I am always up for a challenge and was going to defeat my temptations and desires. After giving myself a full on motivational pep, something along the lines of “You can do this, you have the strength to do this detox ! You will not cave in to your temptations or the taste of sweet chocolatey goodness”. In all honestly, the pep talk did absolutely nothing. However, in the summer of 2021 one year ago today exactly, for 1 whole week I took on the dopamine detox challenge.
Right, before I continue on about how my detox week went, I should properly give a little education lesson on dopamine. The best way I can describe the Dopamine detox was actually an eye-opening experience. First, let's answer the question. What is dopamine ? Dopamine is the reward hormone in the brain. Think about the rush you get from a cliffhanger series. That's dopamine. Think about that feel good vibe you get when listening to music, also dopamine. Think about the little dance your taste buds do every time you eat or drink something that you enjoy. Guessed it ? Thats right That's dopamine. Now, you will probably go “yes that makes sense” every time you reach an orgasm. Right again, that's dopamine.
Dopamine is released every time you achieve or do something that brings you joy and makes you feel good, no matter how small the action. This hormone gets released to encourage you to repeat the action. This is actually how addictions are formed and then you are hooked. TV series leaves their audiences wanting more. Social media have algorithms that will throw out content that keeps you interested and makes you want to keep using their apps for longer. Junk food is the most tasty temptation of all, the craving for sugar. Alcohol, which in many generations, has been a way of socialising and one of the biggest activities that releases the most dopamine, sex and porn, all in which you can become addicted to.
Now you can’t actually “detox” dopamine from the body, however, you can use its effects to your advantage. When removing the things that we rely on to get a quick and easy dopamine release, we can essentially retrain ourselves to do the harder things to get the same release. So what's the challenge? The challenge is: NO digital entertainment (no music/no television, only use technology for work reasons, text massage or phone calls), NO social media, NO junk food, NO alcohol and NO sex or porn. For 7 consecutive days, I had to follow these rules in order to successfully pass this detox challenge. However, this detox doesn’t have to be just a 1 week thing. You can do it for 2 weeks, 3 weeks or even 4 weeks. This detox may even open you up to a new lifestyle. Just by replacing TV, music and social media with physical activity or activities that get your brain engaged, such as reading, can give you a better lifestyle. And when it comes to tasty naughty temptations such as junk food and alcohol, try healthy foods and healthier drink options, therefore consuming what you need instead of what you want.
The first couple of days were nothing special; bored, restless, a little unsure about what to do, but I was going to do my best in order to get the most out of this detox. So I started my day by making a fruit smoothie and a healthy breakfast and cracked on with work. The challenges really began for me when it hit 4pm and I finished work for the day. Now I usually spend some time on my social media or even watch a bit of TV, but noooo, instead I decided to get back into reading. I always like reading but struggle to get into a book. I didn't have many options, so I decided to start one of the few books that I had which didn’t actually take me long to get hooked on. After finally putting my book down I had dinner and went to bed. Tuesday temptations grew when I went to pick up my new glasses, I had to walk through the shopping centre surrounded by delicious treats of all kinds. But I took this opportunity to purchase something I would benefit from instead of caving in and demolishing something sweet and unhealthy, instead spending some money on some new books, as I was proud of the challenges I had already achieved and wanted to motivate myself to include reading in my everyday lifestyle.
As days 3, 4 and 5 came around, I had become more proactive. I was waking up at 7:30 well rested, ready to start the day before my alarm even went off. It was crazy how quickly this detox was having a positive effect on me. I was up doing more with my time in the morning before work, such as tidying my room and hovering and mopping the bedroom floor instead of lying in. It was more stimulating for my brain to read my new book “Orange Grove” instead of scrolling through tiktok on my lunch breaks and before bed. Reading before sleeping definitely has had a positive impact from night one of this detox, being the type of person that can't sleep in silence. I thought I would struggle a lot, but not having technology to distract me actually gave my mind the chance to shut down and fall asleep at a more reasonable time, which gave the ripple affect of me waking up at a reasonable time and making more of my day. I was shocked but it definitely made a great impact on my day and mood, feeling more rested, happy and ready to go.
The dopamine Detox had proven to be an interesting experience that I genuinely thought would be a struggle. But in actual fact, it has improved my lifestyle each day, whether it was trying something new, having a more positive mood or using the time in my day better and getting more things done, like not having the distraction of social media and TV. One thing that didn't change was family time on it has always been important to me and I spent time in my detoxed week doing just that with my niece and nephews playing monopoly. When it came to breakfast, lunch and dinner, I found myself instead of making something quick and most likely unhealthy, I thought more about what I made and chose more sensible dishes. The dishes I made also included a lot more fruit and veg than what I usually had and actually created a couple of delicious dinners with more sensible portion sizes, as well as training myself to snack on the right food instead of the wrong.
A curve ball was thrown at me on Thursday afternoon… I felt the sharp pain, my taste buds tingled craving something sweet, felt bloated and icky - the sweet tooth cravings I was having grew stronger and stronger. It could only mean one thing; MOTHER NATURE HAD ARRIVED. It got real dark real quick. I wasn’t sure what to do. How would I cope with all the cravings I was having? And then I saw it. The beautiful yellow curves, the only thing that I could eat that was sweet and healthy, the last one in the bowl … a banana! I have never been so happy and excited over some fruit! By Friday I was in a good mood, but I felt drained as I felt that 5 days of no sugar in my system was definitely destroying the nasty toxins leaving my body. But oh, how I wish that banana had been a chocolate bar, as my sweet tooth cravings had not been satisfied.
The weekend was different; as I didn’t work, it meant I had more time to fill up with productivity. Not having work to distract me was a bit of a challenge. The detox took me by surprise again the moment I woke up on Saturday. Waking up at 7:30, no alarm, just me wide awake and ready for the day. I got up and went down to feed and water my animals, which is usually what my sister did in the mornings. But today I was up first, so I thought let’s get cracking. As I went down to see my animals, I had the chance to appreciate the morning sunshine, the birds singing, the simple beauty I would not have seen if I was still sleeping. I used my morning to get jobs in the stable yard done, then got washed and dressed and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine, reading my book and enjoying a family dinner with healthy food. I was feeling and doing really well until I saw my sister pour herself a glass of sweet rosa; I could smell and taste the berry flavours and aromas just thinking about it. Then more luxuries appeared when my sister, niece and nephews baked cookies, brownies and a cake. I thought they were trying to torch me but it was OK, I was not going to break. I enjoyed the evening sunshine whilst reading some more of my book, distracting me from all the delightful temptations.
Sunday was a fun day but it was no doubt the final and ultimate test day, going out socialising and having fun. I went bowling and for food with some friends. I stayed strong and healthy and conquered the real temptations. I had water, no cocktails, no dessert, but oh, how I craved a chocolate brownie but I did not cave. Feeling happy and proud, learning to have more control over my temptations was actually a great feeling. I spent the rest of my Sunday evening working on some bits for my small business, Petals and Pearls, reading some more of my delightful book and relaxing in the garden, enjoying the cool weather as my room was so hot. There in the garden as the sun was setting, I sat thinking back on my detox week.
What a week… full of challenges that I proudly achieved, as well as creating a new mindset about certain things. I have decided there are things I would like to include in my daily lifestyle going forward, such as reading. It really helped in the evening and the book got me hooked. New personal challenges I had to face and really tested myself, such as sleeping without music playing in the background, having the TV on, having more self control over food and adjusting to things that I didn’t think I was compatible with. This week was fairly proactive for me and I believe if I did another week I would have become more and more proactive.
I learned to use my time more efficiently and not having distractions gave me more time to focus on things I have a passion for, such as working on ideas to help support my fundraising projects which you can check out on my blog called Alexandra’s Projects and help support too (ADD LINK HERE). This detox experience has also opened up my thoughts to ways to improve my mind and body, such as learning meditation, pilates or yoga. However, not having music was difficult as it's a way of me expressing my emotions, motivates me whilst working and being a dancer since I was 3. Music has always been in my life. It's a part of me that I don’t want to give up. However, I’m more open to cutting back on social media and TV to try to limit myself and spend more time making my days as productive as possible.
My week was still full of entertainment as I did this detox with one of my work colleagues and friend, Cameron, who was actually the one that approached me about the detox challenge. As I tried my best to stay sane, he had lost it by Thursday, sending me videos of what he had documented so far. It is safe to say when I’m in his presence, I feel like the normal one haha. But he was a perfect partner to do this with; supporting, encouraging and laughing our way through the week and, as well as improving our own lifestyles, I felt that it also brought our friendship closer and it also showed me what I’m capable of and that I have more willpower than I realised. The Dopamine Detox was a unique, challenging but rewarding experience.
“Believe you can and you're halfway there.”
“You are the artist of your own life. Don’t hand the paintbrush to anyone else.”