Dopamine fasting is one of those techniques that has become fashionable in Silicon Valley, very much in the style of microdosing, and that seeks to improve the rhythm of an extremely fast life full of frantic stimuli.
For this, those who practice it abstain from daily pleasures with the idea of ”recovering” the ability to feel, again, the well-being that has stolen an excess of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls it. This neurological argument makes sense from a superficial scientific point of view. However, what if we search its depths? Does it make any sense?
Dopamine fast: against a world of immediate pleasure
We live in a world full of immediate experiences and pleasure. That notification on your mobile that indicates new “I like you”; that advertisement full of suggestive images and attractive music; the ultra-processed food that makes your mouth water … the examples of everyday life are numerous. Every time we receive a stimulus that we consider pleasant, in fact, it is dopamine that makes this happen.
For dopamine fasting advocates, living constantly exposed to this neurotransmitter is a problem. At one point, our brain is unable to elicit the same reward response as it is oversaturated from the daily dopamine bombardment. This causes a typical addiction phenomenon known as tolerance.
It is then when it is necessary to do a “fast” and limit for a time all the positive stimuli that produce pleasure. Each person makes their own version of this dopamine fast, but always under the same premise: reduce pleasure to the maximum, seeking absolute boredom. With this, those who practice it try to feel motivation and pleasure in all its splendor again. This means leaving behind laziness and laziness, recovering part of creativity and well-being.
How is the dopamine fast done?
For those who practice it, dopamine fasts serve as a maintenance checkpoint; It is done when they feel distracted, stressed, uncreative, too lazy, or any other expression related to a “low” or unmotivated mood.
Typically, this technique involves controlling any impulsive behavior, especially stimulants. This implies reducing the use of mobile or similar devices (games, social networks, etc.). It also involves carrying out other activities, as they explain, that involve effort and do not produce immediate pleasure. A key point of the dopamine fast is controlling “urge surfing” or the urge to satisfy the need for reward. What can and cannot be done? It depends on each person.
This is one of the most difficult issues to address since it is almost impossible to effectively control the amount of dopamine that we secrete. Thus, innocuous stimuli for some people can be a strong reward for others. To ensure that we do not encounter dopamine spikes, it is recommended to do soft, simple activities that do not provoke great emotions, or very fast. Reading, listening to music, walking … In contrast, we should avoid everything that produces a certain feeling of “anxiety” to obtain it. In short, it consists of avoiding acts that give us quick and immediate satisfaction, normally associated with small gestures of the day-to-day (whims, mobile devices, actions that only seek rapid well-being). This usually causes a “boredom” situation for many people who practice it.
This situation is repeated daily, between one and four hours, once every weekend, one weekend every four months or one week per year, depending on “tolerance” and self-control capacity. Of course, this only serves as a guide, says Dr. Cameron Sepah, one of the leading advocates and author of guidelines for doing so. For people used to doing it, it is recommended to practice it between 5 and 30 minutes one to three times a day
So does the dopamine fast work?
At the moment, there is no scientific evidence that this is the case. Of course, we do know two basic things that dopamine fasting claims to be based on. This is classical conditioning and addiction theory. In the first, a stimulus elicits a response that is learned and reinforced. This happens with those little things from day to day: a message from someone who interests us; the reaffirmation that a photo that we like is appreciated by others; an ad that appeals to our emotions … in the end, these stimuli predispose us to feel pleasure, and produce dopamine, even when they are not truly pleasant.