How to Do a Dopamine Detox: 7 Best Habits

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Do you need a dopamine detox?

If you’re like most people with the attention span less than that of a goldfish…you might.  

In my virtual functional medicine practice, I work with clients worldwide to up level how they look, move, feel and think. And, sometimes, a dopamine detox is part of that. 

Dopamine 101

Dopamine Detox - Woman Smiling

Dopamine is the “FEEL GOOD” reward brain chemical involved in helping us feel pleasure.

Every time you reach for your phone to check your email or social media—you get a dopamine hit. (Me checking email).

Every time you run—and get that runner’s high—you get a dopamine hit. (Me running)

Every time you turn up the volume for Nelly’s “Shake Ya Tailfeather”—or a song that gets you up and singing—you get a dopamine hit (me singing in car).

Low dopamine on the other hand is what causes us to feel bored easily, lose our attention, and crave stimuluses…like coffee, cigarettes, cookies, and community—things like more likes and followers on IG or Tie Tok.

Dopamine Detox 101

Dopamine detoxing is a buzz word in the bio-hacking world. 

What is basically means is cleansing your brain and life of the triggers that you currently turn to for a dopamine hit, like:

Dopamine Detox - Woman Smiling, Craving For Sweets

  • The beeps and notifications & Obsessively checking your phone
  • Emotional eating
  • Excessive internet, TV and gaming usage
  • Substances: Caffeine, Alcohol, Smoking
  • Excess Exercise
  • Sexual activities—like porn and masterbation
  • Shopping
  • Thrill or novelty seeking

Although some practitioners may call the NEED to do these behaviors a “dopamine deficiency” and may prescribe SSRI drugs or tell the person to just “stop it” and use more willpower…

A dopamine detox is a proactive way to REWIRE your dopamine levels naturally.

HOW A DOPAMINE DETOX WORKS

The idea is that by allowing ourselves to feel lonely or bored, or to find pleasures in doing simpler and more natural activities, we will regain control over our lives and be better able to address compulsive behaviors that may be interfering with our happiness and ability to be present— in the moment.

Mental rejuvenation!

The result? You. Optimized. More natural energy. Enhanced focus. More peace of mind. 

Seriously. I did a dopamine detox, years ago before it was actually a thing…and my whole routine and life is completely different.

I no longer have to check my phone first thing after waking up

I rarely scroll on social media

I workout—but don’t spend 8 hours in the gym on a stair master.

More present. 

The cool thing? I don’t have to fight my willpower to do these things…and the same can be true for you.

Try these 7 dopamine detox hacks that helped me:

HOW TO DO A DOPAMINE DETOX: 7 HACKS

  1. ESTABLISH PHONE BOUNDARIES

Don’t check your phone within the first 30 to 120 minutes of waking and sleep with it on airplane mode (or turn the wi-fi completely off). 

2. REPLACE COFFEE WITH WATER

Naturally more energizing. ¾ people actually dehydrated. Coffee dehydrates you more. Add pinch sea slat and lemon for.

3. EAT ONE MEAL MINDFULLY (SANS SCREENS OR ON THE GO)

Eating triggers the release of dopamine…and mindless eating can continue to trigger lots of dopamine – this is why snacking and binge eating is related to feeling good in the moment. When we look at screens we become even more disconnected with our hunger and gut. We start eating more out of habit. Rest and digest- signal calm and peace.

4. DO THE OPPOSITE OF YOUR WORKOUT

Dopamine Detox - Women Having A Happy Conversation

Whether you’re an exercise addict or lead a sedentary lifestyle and get your dopamine hits from TV, happy hours or snacking …. During a dopamine detox, doing the ‘opposite’ of your reward-seeking tendencies can help with regulating dopamine levels back to balance.

For example I used to be super obsessed with working out – like 8 hours a day – and my addiction caused low levels of dopamine and anxiety if I couldn’t do this habit… a dopamine detox forced me to pull back on the amount of exercise I was doing to help me in the LONG RUN…

Although exercise is definitely not a bad thing, over-reliance and dependence on it was not serving me … I couldn’t travel … I couldn’t spend time with friends …

I couldn’t accommodate variations in my weekly work schedule … my body and brain felt REALLY off when I replaced my 3 hour morning stairmaster with 1 hour in the gym and other activities, or my 4 workouts on Saturday mornings with 1… but today I am more free. I also brought in yoga and dance and weight training – outside of my chronic cardio.

If you’re sedentary, this may look like replacing your habit of Netflix or the bar with a group fitness class or a walk with a friend instead of the bar. The opposite of your tendencies.

5. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND–KEEP TRIGGER FOODS OUT OF THE HOUSE

What do you turn to without thinking about it? Ice cream? Artificially sweetened desserts? Pasta? Cereal? During your detox, toss em out.                                                                                                         

6. CANDLE DOWN AT NIGHT

 Turn off the tube and video games…put your phone on do not disturb. As a little kid you had a bed time routine–books, bath, maybe water, warm milk or tea. What changed? What COULD change?

7. SET A NOTIFICATION – ONE- THAT REMINDS YOU: Just be and just breathe.

Many of these habits WILL become habitual…but to help…a notification can be a friendly reminder to your unconscious mind…oh yah…Breathe…be present. 

There you have it— 7 hacks tor a dopamine detox made simple—something that can change your whole outlook on your days and how you show up. More present. 

Want a customized nutrition, supplement, lifestyle and lab testing blueprint to optimize your health? Contact me at my virtual functional medicine practice and let’s go!               

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