It is not known exactly who first proposed this idea, but it gained viral popularity thanks toon Youtube dedicated to this “diet”. The video has already received over 1.8 million views.
“Dopamine fasting” means giving up sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling (in extreme cases – also from any communication) for a certain period – at least 24 hours. Proponents of this approach promise a clear mind and excellent concentration as a result. But many experts are skeptical about such claims.
“Those who try to influence dopamine levels or sensitivity to it in this way are unlikely to get the expected result without a scientific approach,” says neurophysiologist Nicole Prause. She emphasizes that “dopamine fasting” has its drawbacks: “If you“ overdo it ”, you will feel worse, you may fall into apathy, temporarily deprived of almost all the pleasures, and if you do not endure and“ break down ”, feelings of guilt and shame may arise. “.
It is worth remembering that dopamine is not only associated with the experience of pleasure. “This neurotransmitter is used by our brains when biologically significant stimuli appear – for example, when someone makes us sexually attractive or aggressive. Dopamine plays an important role in learning and the perception of reward, fluidity of movement, motivation and many other functions depend on it, ”explains Nicole Prause.
However, some experts support the idea of temporarily giving up stimulation. Among them is Cameron Sepa, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2019, he published The Complete Guide to Dopamine Fasting 2.0 to “dispel myths caused by misleading media coverage.”
Sepa argues that the purpose of this “diet” is not really to reduce dopamine stimulation. In his manual, he gives another definition: “This ‘diet’ is based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, it helps to regain self-control, reduce impulsive behavior, allowing you to indulge in pleasure only during certain periods of time.”
Any activity that increases dopamine levels can become intrusive
Cameron Sepa does not suggest avoiding any stimulation. He recommends fighting only those habits that create problems for you – for example, if you spend too much time on Facebook or spend too much online shopping. “We must clearly understand: we avoid not dopamine itself, but impulsive behavior, which it reinforces and reinforces,” writes the psychiatrist. “Fasting” is a way to limit external sources of stimulation: smartphone, TV, and so on.
The professor offers two options for the “dopamine diet”: the first – for those who do not want to completely get rid of some habit, but want to better control themselves, the second – for those who decided to almost completely abandon something, only occasionally allowing themselves this is an exception.
“Anything that promotes dopamine production can be enjoyable — whether it’s gratitude, exercise, or whatever we love. But any excess can be harmful. For example, phone notifications give us instant gratification by giving us pleasure and boosting dopamine levels in the brain. Because of this, many begin to impulsively check the phone more and more often. Any activity that increases dopamine levels can become intrusive, such as eating or even exercising, ”explains clinical psychologist Catherine Jackson.
We learn certain patterns of behavior and practice them more and more often if we get dopamine reinforcement as a result. Katherine Jackson is confident that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help reduce impulsivity and get rid of obsessive behavior.
“When we act impulsively, we react to a certain stimulus automatically, without thinking,” the psychologist comments. – KBT can teach us to stop in time and think about our actions. We can also reduce the number of stimuli around us. The very idea of this therapy is to help a person change their way of thinking and behavior patterns. “
Unlike many experts, Katherine Jackson supports the idea of ”dopamine fasting”. “Most people are not capable of giving up a habit right away,” she says. “It will be more beneficial for them to gradually restrict unwanted behavior. Don’t worry about your “dopamine level”. But if you notice that some of your habits have turned into addiction and negatively affects your life, then any methods that help you to refrain from it, most likely, will benefit you. But we are not talking about a complete “dopamine cessation”, so it may be worth coming up with another name for such a “diet.”
The cravings of people for high-calorie food, sexual pleasure, exercise and many other pleasant things can be explained from a cultural, historical or psychological point of view. However, neuroscience professor David Linden takes a biological approach in his book Brain and Pleasure.
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