Silicon Valley has done biohacking, clean sleeping and the keto diet, but now they have devised a new health trend “dopamine fasting. “
In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour. It is thought that depriving yourself of dopamine (dopamine fasting) can help to reboot or rebalance the brain. Fasting might include cutting back on things like technology, food, artificial light, sex, alcohol, social media and technology: essentially anything that an individual find stimulating.
So just being in a sweet shop and thinking about sweets can enliven our brain’s dopamine. This expectation and anticipation of rewards are called the “wanting” in neuroscience language.
It is possible to influence the production of dopamine through diet, Nutt says. He mentions the velvet bean, which contains high concentrations of a precursor to dopamine. “There is no question that you can have a dietary influence on the production of dopamine,” he says. “Starvation would probably reduce dopamine to some extent.”
Dopamine is often thought of as a reward, but Joydeep Bhattacharya, who leads the research group of cognitive and neuroscience at Goldsmiths, University of London, shared that that dopamine is “about learning the anticipation of the reward, and not the pleasure itself. It is primarily released in this anticipation phase.”
Dopamine fasters believe that they can reduce desires and craving for unhealthy and even unwanted behaviors by reducing dopamine. The purpose of dopamine fasting is based on the knowledge that dopamine is involved in unhealthy addictive behaviors.
First, we need to be clear, it is certainly not wise to reduce the amount of dopamine in the brain as we need it for everyday normal functions.
Further, simply putting a stop to a particular reward, like social media, isn’t going to reduce the levels of dopamine, but rather it can help reduce the stimulation of dopamine.
Therefore it is possible to reduce the amount of dopamine activity. But the key to doing this is to reduce our exposure to the triggers associated with the rewards that initiate the wanting for the rewards in the first place.
If you find that you want to cut down on what you feel are unhealthy behaviors, such as spending too much time on social media or overeating, then you could start by reducing your exposure to the environmental cues that trigger the desires to carry out the unhealthy behaviors. You can try turning off the notifications sounds therefore not signaling the urges to pick up the phone.