Dopamine detox: what did I get myself into?

When Sarah, singer song-writer from Rotterdam, talked about doing a Dopamine Detox, we were surprised to say the least, as dopamine is one of the ‘happy’ hormones.  Dopamine is linked to lots of functions in the body, but is most commonly known for helping us feel pleasure or reward.  Why would Sarah want to give this up? Read on to find out…

When my partner told me he wanted to do a dopamine detox I laughed at him. A dopamine detox? You mean giving up everything that gives me joy?

He showed me a video called DOPAMINE DETOX | How To Take Back Control Over Your Life by Niklas Christl ,and explained that we use so many things to give us a quick shot of happiness. Scrolling through endless videos on social media when we are waiting at a bus stop so that we aren’t bored. Or a glass of wine (or two) after a long day of work that we give ourselves as a reward. All quick fixes: but do they really give us a joyful life?

I, with a lot of reluctance and no real motivation, accepted the challenge and started a week of dopamine detox.

The following things were off-limits:
1. No social media (including YouTube)
2. No watching series or movies
3. No junk food or soda
4. No porn
5. No listening to music
6. No alcohol, no drugs, no smoking
7. No chocolate

And the week begins.

When these rules were explained to me the first thing that concerned me was no watching TV series or movies. Whenever the working day is done, I reward myself by sitting down on the couch and watching Netflix. It’s my way of turning off my mind. Preferably something that is so stupid that I don’t even have to pay attention to follow it. While watching series I also tend to watch videos on TikTok or Instagram. Which meant I was watching two things at the same time, just to cancel out the noise from the real world. I would get really annoyed if someone would call me later than 6, because that disrupted the whole idea of not knowing the world is out there and to be in my own bubble. Reading a book or painting was to much work for me, I wanted to lay down, do nothing and zone out.

This challenge had a great impact on that.

I discovered that a lot of the things on the list above I use to give myself a joy boost. I love a good glass of wine, especially after a day of work, and am very much a chocaholic. The thing that really surprised me was that I told my partner: “I don’t even drink that much soda.” Drinking a soda was one of the things that went wrong this week. Without even thinking about it I accepted one and it was only afterwards I realized that I was breaking the challenge. It takes a lot of consideration to do this challenge as so many of the things on the `off-limit’ list are integrated in our lives. For example, you hear music everywhere. It’s quite impossible to not listen to music when in every store and restaurant you hear music. It seems like it has become more of a necessity than a luxury. On day four I went to work early in the morning and the car radio was on. I didn’t even think about turning it off, and I actually turned the volume up so that I would stay awake. Again, after the event, I suddenly realized I wasn’t allowed to listen to music. I even did the same thing on the return journey and I didn’t remember to turn the radio off until I was halfway home. When I did turn it off, it was actually such a nice and easy feeling. The sun was shining, I heard the birds and could look around at the environment instead of zoning out.

Social media was somehow not much of an issue. Except that I use social media for work (which I allowed myself to use). I didn’t miss scrolling through all the videos and pictures. In the first few days I did tend to grab my phone but later in the week this became less and less. Now at the end of the week I am actually so much happier without all the useless information I receive. My friends were on a ski holiday and I knew they would be posting, so I just asked them to send me pictures and tell me directly. It was much more personal and I enjoyed it more.  It was as if I was with them instead of just looking at posts as an outsider.

In the last week I was more grounded, had much more time on my hands and lived more balanced than ever before. I cleaned my house more often, took more walks instead of taking the scooter, I talked more with friends and slept very well. Before I was rushing for no reason and it gave me anxiety that was not necessary. This challenge gave me a sort of meditational feeling, as if everything I did was with much more consideration. I also did a lot thinking about many memories I had, about living abroad or fun vacations I had with friends. Every action and thought had much more value than before.

Would I do it again?

I will definitely do it again and I am even considering to keep going with a slight change of rules. I am a musician, so listening to music is my life and work. But say, I am in the car on the way to work and I can’t put on the music I want to listen to, I will not turn on the radio just to listen to some music I don’t even really like and commercials that I definitely don’t want to hear. Not watching series and movies was a big challenge but by doing this I had so much more time to work on my music, to catch up with friends and work on some new fun projects. Will I never watch a movie or series again? Probably not, but I will start integrating some structure where I allow myself to watch something once every few days. I definitely want to use social media less. As I use social media for my work I will be focusing on sending information instead of receiving. I am missing nothing. Like really nothing. And the things I am missing, such as pictures from my friends on holiday, I can ask them to send them to me personally.

Singer songwriter Sarah Burger was born and raised in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. As down to earth as that city is, are her songs. She sings in Dutch, Spanish and sometimes English, but allways straight to-the-point and without fuss, but with a sweet lining. She likes to perform for a small audience, so she can talk to everyone and see people laugh. She loves to make people smile, with her jokes and funny remarks, or by bringing back memories with her lyrics.  Her songs are personal, from her own experience, but recognizable by almost everyone. Listen for yourself.