Dopamine fasting has made recent headlines and has been steadily trending in the tech world, specifically in the tech capital Silicon Valley but with mixed reviews. Essentially, dopamine fasting is abstaining from anything that produces dopamine for a designated period of time. The right balance of dopamine is fundamental for both physical and mental health. Our levels of dopamine affect our moods, sleep patterns, concentration, motor control and memory. The idea is that making this effort to take a break from things that produce excessive amounts of dopamine allow the brain to recover and rebuild.
The tech industry is often ahead of the curve when it comes to wellness trends and CEOs of major companies are outspoken about things like intermittent fasting, tech fasting and now full-blown dopamine fasting. However, many critics have called out that this is not a new trend at all, but just Buddhist meditation or Jewish Sabbath with a more appealing name.
What is Dopamine?
Simply put, dopamine is the chemical your brain releases when it feels good. The release produces a context-dependent memory, so that person seeks more of it. Some pleasurable situations when dopamine is released include eating delicious foods and playing with cute puppies. However, too much or too little of it can lead to a number of health and mental health issues. Drugs like opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine cause a flood of dopamine release. Prolonged drug use raises the threshold for this kind of pleasure and the increasing presence of dopamine leads to addiction. A dopamine deficiency can lead to depression and diseases including Parkinson’s diseases.
The clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco that popularized this term, Cameron Sepah, has based the idea around based on cognitive behavioral therapy that is generally used to treat addiction. Sepah also said “Dopamine is just a mechanism that explains how addictions can become reinforced, and makes for a catchy title, and should not be taken so literal”.
Dopamine Fasting In Practice
The average proponents of dopamine fasting emphasize that the term is loose and those that want to challenge themselves could take a look at their lives and identify areas of over-consumption. For example, some dopamine fasters abstain from things like sugar, alcohol, porn, social media or video games. When we are constantly indulging in sugar or social media, we will continue to want more and more to reach the threshold of satisfaction.
Scientists have pointed out several holes in the dopamine fasting handbook, particularly that no matter our efforts, dopamine in not in our control. However, the act of monitoring ones impulsve controls and embracing feels of boredom or stillness do help our conditioning and basically break bad habits. If people experience that it is helping with helping with their technology or sugar addiction, perhaps many may find it help curb drug or alcohol addiction.