Psychology | Productivity | Science

Dopamine Fasting: Trick Your Brain To Like Doing Hard Things

How ‘Dopamine Fasting’ can help you achieve your productivity goals

Dinelka
Dinelka
Aug 22, 2020 · 5 min read
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Artwork by Praveen Dinelka (Author)

live in a world that just loves to worship productivity. In a way, that is quite understandable as the fast-paced modern lifestyle requires you to have a high level of productivity. Only then are you able to fulfill all your work and personal obligations. Fortunately, there is no dearth of methods to give your productivity a boost. Dopamine fasting is perhaps the latest in a long line of such methods.

If you’ve never heard of the term before, it basically refers to the practice of abstaining from those activities that please you. This includes using social media, eating your favorite food, playing video games, watching tv shows, and so on. Those who hear of this practice for the first time, naturally question “why anyone would want to do such a thing?” and “how it could possibly improve your productivity?”.

The answer lies in the way dopamine works in our bodies and how we can use this knowledge to direct our time and energy towards more productive tasks.

The Science Behind Dopamine

Dopamine is a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It is released in the brain in anticipation of doing things that you enjoy. As such, it makes you feel good and pleasurable. That’s why it was only considered to be a “pleasure hormone” for the longest time. In more recent times, however, scientists have discovered that there is more to dopamine than just pleasure. It actually influences the motivation of a person and their habit formation.

Since dopamine is directly related to our habits and the things we like, it has a great influence on how and where we spend most of our time. In today’s world, there are so many unproductive tasks like using social media, watching tv shows to pass time, playing games on phones, which all lead to dopamine production. We keep doing these activities over and over again in order to get that hit of dopamine without even realizing it. This is where dopamine fasting comes in.

What Happens When You ‘Dopamine Fast’

When you actively deny yourself those activities that you enjoy, your body naturally produces much less dopamine. This is what many proponents of dopamine fasting call a “dopamine reset”. To achieve this reset, some people practice this fasting for a day and some do it for more than a month.

When you go on a fasting spree, you actually reduce your impulsive behavior. This, in turn, helps you get rid of your bad habits that have formed over time due to your unconscious addiction to dopamine. For instance, as soon as you see a notification from a social media app on your phone, you immediately reach for it, no matter how important the task you’re already doing is. Also, no matter how much you do this, it is never enough.

Dopamine fasting helps you get rid of these impulses. It unlinks a particular behavior from the release of dopamine. It is this change that leads to an increase in productivity, which is what people really seek from dopamine fasting in the first place. Logically, when you stop indulging in hundreds of tiny distractions and bad habits throughout the day, you suddenly have a lot more time for the more important tasks.

Using Dopamine Fasting To Bolster Productivity

It doesn’t matter whether you are a student, or working on a job; you can use dopamine fasting to improve your productivity. Just knowing about how all of this works is the first step towards bringing change in your habits. That’s because you are more aware of how your brain makes you indulge in wasteful activities just for the sake of a dopamine hit.

So, you can take firm steps to put an end to this loop. In the modern lifestyle, most of our dopamine-seeking activities are related to our plethora of smart devices. Screen addiction has become a major issue and the biggest reason for decreased productivity. Taking this into account, let’s take a look at how you can apply dopamine fasting to get rid of screen addiction and boost your productivity.

At Work

It can be quite tricky to not use electronic devices at work since you rely on them to complete your tasks. However, you can start being mindful of the actual work you are doing on these devices.

Let’s say you are at your desktop working on a project report or an article. Since it’s important, you can put your phone in silent mode. If that’s not an option, you can disable notifications of all the apps that distract you and are not important (social media, YouTube, gaming, chats, etc).

At lunch, instead of using your smartphone while eating, you can have healthy conversations with your peers. This too will help you abstain from screens and all those activities your brain finds pleasurable on your smartphone.

Basically, it’s all about mindfulness. When you are totally aware of the present moment and everything that you are doing on a much deeper and conscious level, you can make healthy choices. So, if you’re mindful, and if the notification on your phone goes off, you won’t immediately reach for your phone. You will first ask yourself whether it is something that is necessary at that very moment. Is it truly rewarding or is that just your addiction tricking you? Mindfulness will serve as your compass in every single moment.

During study

This is one of the vital areas where dopamine fasting can help. In earlier days, there were no smart devices to distract students. Today, they are distracted all the time. As such, it takes them much longer to complete their assignments and to learn a given subject.

Dopamine fasting can help immensely here. When you’re studying, try to keep your devices away from you. The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” applies here. When you don’t get that external stimulus, you obviously won’t react to it. So, you dopamine fast by default.

If you need to study on your computer or smartphone, make sure you only open the apps and software that are useful for studying. Resist the urge to open any social media sites or games. Again, mindfulness will help you achieve this. When you’re mindful of your experiences in real-time, you will ask yourself whether what you’re going to do next is rewarding. Most of the time, the logical and non-judgmental part of your brain will say, “It’s not”.

In addition to all of this, you can dedicate a few hours every single day to disconnect from all your devices. Not only will this help you dopamine fast, but you can also use this time to focus on other things that will enhance your productivity. You could exercise, meditate, rest, complete extra tasks, etc.

Final Thoughts

Dopamine fasting is not about denying yourself all the pleasures of life. That would be meaningless and frankly, nobody can carry on permanently in this mode. So, it’s best to make this a part of life and not the way of life. You can view it as an exercise or meditation that you make time for every day. You’d be surprised what a couple of hours of abstaining every day can do to your habits. You become much less impulsive and your productivity skyrockets.

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Dinelka

Written by

Dinelka

Engineer | History Buff | Tech Enthusiast

Aruma

Aruma

Outstanding, original, refreshing, and thought-provoking content from diverse domains.

Dinelka

Written by

Dinelka

Engineer | History Buff | Tech Enthusiast

Aruma

Aruma

Outstanding, original, refreshing, and thought-provoking content from diverse domains.

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