Dopamine Fast: New Trend in Silicon Valley

Dopamine Fast: New Trend in Silicon Valley

Today we analyse the latest trend born in Silicon Valley and progressively extended to the whole world: Dopamine fasting.

We are looking at something that could be compared to intermittent fasting in its early stages. That is, an ancient concept that is renewed until it has airs of “modernity”.

As we will see, what supporters of dopamine fasts (DF) are proposing is not exactly new, nor was it to deprive themselves of food for a certain period of time.

Firstly, what is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter.

That is, a chemical that signals in our central nervous system; in this case, dopamine is closely related to:

  • Motivation.
  • Motor control.
  • Anticipation.

Neurotransmitters

Remember this last word, because it is key to understanding the dopamine fast.

If you want to dig deeper into the neurotransmitters, we have prepared this article.

Dopamine motivates us

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for anticipation and motivation.

When we anticipate a potentially pleasant future situation (e.g., doing well in school exams) dopamine will take care of closing the gap between that desire and your current situation.

In other words, you get up off the couch and you sit at your desk to study. It motivates you.

In this case, the trigger or cause of this “shot” of Dopamine is the thought of doing well and working in what you like.

However, we have other more everyday and problematic triggers that can trigger “damaging” behaviours and activities that are not always healthy:

  • This is the case in continuous notifications for someone who spends a lot of time (too much) on social networks.
  • Going through a shopping centre for someone who has a shopping problem.
  • Surfing the web for someone who is addicted to pornography or online shopping.
The recipe is always the same: there are activities or elements (triggers) that trigger search behaviours, sometimes compulsively and thoughtlessly.

Life rhythm

And this search is fuelled and motivated by the neurotransmitter we are talking about today: Dopamine.

What is a Dopamine Fast exactly?

The DF is but an attempt to provide an antidote to the society of hedonism, compulsiveness and demotivation with which we live today.

It consists of, voluntarily and temporarily, moving away from all those elements that facilitate compulsive behaviours and immediate pleasure.

This list might include:

  • Sex or porn
  • Shopping
  • Ultra-processed foods (especially sweets)
  • Videogames
  • Television
  • The use of social networks
That is, everything that gives us immediate pleasure with little or no effort.

Social media

Elements that, as you can see, are very present in our lives.

Scientific Basis?

Something must be very clear: we are talking about a movement or trend, and not a scientific therapy.

In fact, the DF is so recent that very few scientists have given their opinion on this.

And it is important to clear up another thing: the term “dopamine fast” is more metaphoric than literal.

We cannot modify dopamine concentrations in the central nervous system. To get an idea, many serious neurological disorders like Parkinson’s respond to a pathological alteration in dopamine concentrations at the CNS level, so it is not so easy or safe to play with Dopamine levels.

That said, there is some behavioural therapy called “stimulus control” that overlaps with the idea that DF proposes.

RelaxationIt’s about avoiding stimuli that in some people facilitate compulsive behaviours.

Historical Basis?

Despite the lack of scientific evidence on its effectiveness, and as anticipated in the introduction, DF is not new at all.

The Stoics already reflected practices very similar to DF in their writings, of which we could mainly highlight three:

The practice of moderation

Perhaps Seneca is the stoic who spoke most about this virtue. That’s to say, don’t give in too much to parsons and enjoy everything in small doses.

Voluntary discomfort

That is, to put yourself in uncomfortable contexts temporarily and voluntarily, applying for example physical exercise, cold showers, periods of food deprivation and simple clothing, or even simpler, periods of intermittent fasting.

Here you have an excellent post that deals with the concept of “voluntary discomfort”.

Gratitude

While dopamine is the neurotransmitter of search and persecution, and makes us value what we do not yet have; gratitude balances this by making us appreciate what we have right now.

A life of “dopamine” without gratitude is a miserable life with a serious series of excesses that seem to be endless, which lead to a growing escalation of dissatisfaction and depression.

Gratitude

I’m sure many famous celebrities are coming to your head right now.

Benefits of Dopamine Fast

Those who practice DF report various beneficial effects, such as:

  • Ability to enjoy the simple and everyday things that we usually overlook. I am talking about a meal with the family, a walk with your partner or just being able to sit down and read a book on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Less impulsiveness and less time spent on compulsive behaviours.
  • Better feelings of happiness and enthusiasm for life.
  • More motivation.

How to implement it?

Very simple.

Just as intermittent fasting is applied in a similar way around the world, dopamine fasting must be more personalised.

Firstly, identify those elements in your life that you have the most trouble with and that generate more compulsive behaviours.

In some people it will be food, for others it will be porn and for others it will be work.

Then set the rules of your dopamine fast.

These may look like:

  • Every day I will only look at social media from 7 to 8 in the evening.
  • One day a week I will go without an Internet connection
  • One week every six months I will do a technology fast.

Bill Gates has his famous “Think Week”, one week a year where he “locks” himself in a house surrounded by nature, without internet connection, with books, notebooks and writing materials.

Why does he do it?

To delve into incomplete ideas, reflect on what’s important, on your trajectory and future objectives.

Nature

All this without the external interference of the thousands of “dopamine pirates” around us (ultra-processed food, social media, series and other excesses of comfort and pleasure).

And what can I do during a Dopamine Fast?

Very unexciting things for the most part.

  • Drink water.
  • Be in nature.
  • Write with a pencil and paper.
  • Fast or eat very simple food.
  • Avoid technology and especially social media.
  • Meditate.
  • Reflect on your life.
  • Exercise.

Calm

Try it: you won’t die.

Conclusions

In short, for being a “non-scientific” practice (for the moment) I think it is quite interesting, and that much of the current population, who are immersed in immediacy and the most excessive hedonism, could benefit from it.

If you liked the topic and want us to delve deeper in other posts, let us know in the comments.

I also recommend the latest post of Marcos Vazquez, where he talks about the dopamine fast from his ever-clairvoyant perspective.

Big hugs and keep going!

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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera is a young doctor who focuses on nutrition, exercise and metabolism, he combines his professional activity with his vocational dissemination and research.
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