How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things [Dopamine Detox]

You probably won’t have any problems playing your daily scheduled video games or browsing social media. There is also no doubt that you can sit in front of the screen and stare at it all day without losing concentration.

But think about studying for an hour. OOFF!! That could be difficult. Or even work on your side business for an hour. Hmm. It doesn’t sound that attractive.

Ah, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering, “Is she a modern witch, or did she just watch too many mind-reading tutorials on the mystical internet?” Is there a Hogwarts for telepaths that I don’t know about?

Well, that’s not the case. Or… maybe it is 😉

Ok, realistically, studying, exercising, starting a business, or doing something equally productive would undoubtedly bring more benefits in the long term. But knowing this, we still prefer to watch television, play video games, and browse social networks. Yes, I do the same too. [Guilty as charged]

However, one could argue that it is obvious why this happens. It is the simple reason that one activity is easy and does not require much effort, while the other is difficult and requires you to put in effort.

But some people don’t mind studying, exercising, or working on side projects regularly. [Wait, let’s back up. What?… these are people who really like these.]

Saying that some people enjoy doing these activities begs the question: Why are some people motivated to tackle difficult things? Is there a method to make difficult things easy? Well… I know you also want to know the secret behind this, so let’s dive into it.

To answer this question, we must look at the brain neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is often considered a pleasure molecule. But what that is is not what it does. What exactly does dopamine do? — It makes us want things.

This desire gives me motivation to get up and do things. However, we are still not sure how powerful dopamine is. But let me note some experiments that neuroscientists performed with rats.

The researchers placed electrodes in the brains of rats and placed a lever in front of them. Each time the rat pulled the lever, the researchers stimulated its reward system, eventually causing the rats to develop a craving so strong that they pulled the lever over and over again for hours. The rats refused to eat or sleep and continued pressing the lever until they collapsed from exhaustion.

But then the process was reversed. The researchers blocked the release of dopamine in the rat’s reward system. They became so lethargic that they didn’t even make the effort to get up and drink some water. They didn’t eat, they didn’t want to mate, or they didn’t crave anything at all. What was seen is that the rats lost the will to live. When food was brought to their mouths, they happily enjoyed it but did not have the motivation to do it themselves.

You might think that thirst and hunger motivate us to eat and drink, but dopamine plays a key role here. These experiments with rats are extreme cases, but you can see the similar effects that dopamine has on humans and in our daily lives.

In fact, your brain develops priorities largely due to the amount of dopamine it is expected to get.

If that particular activity releases too little dopamine, there will be less motivation to do it. But if it releases a lot of dopamine, you will be motivated to repeat it over and over again.

So what behaviors release dopamine? Any activity that anticipates a specific reward releases it. If there are no immediate rewards, then the brain will not release them.

For example, before eating comfort food, the brain releases dopamine because it anticipates that the food will make it feel good.

Your brain doesn’t care if high levels of dopamine are harmful; it just wants more. Ex: A drug addict knows that what he does is not good for him, but he still wants more. Additionally, getting high on cocaine and heroin releases unwanted amounts of dopamine.

Simply put, almost everything releases dopamine.
The highest amount of dopamine is released when you get a random reward. Well, isn’t it so obvious? If you play a slot machine, even if you lose, you expect a bigger reward. You just don’t know when it will happen.

In today’s digital world, we flood our brains with unnecessary amounts of dopamine every day, even if we don’t know it. Whether it’s browsing social media or playing video games, We anticipate some reward for such behaviors.

That’s why we constantly check our phones, waiting for a text message or notification, and eventually we will receive it. (We’re trying to get the dopamine to hit like those rats.) Now you’ll be like, Oh, so what? It wouldn’t hurt me anyway.” But you are wrong…

Our bodies have several biological systems, one called “homeostasis.” Homeostasis means that our body likes to keep its internal physical and chemical conditions at a balanced level. Whenever an imbalance occurs, the body adapts.

For example, if the environment is cold, your body temperature drops, so you shiver to generate heat and warm your body. Likewise, if it’s hot outside, your body temperature rises, so you start sweating to lose that heat. Your body tries to be at 37 degrees Celsius at all times, no matter what.

Homeostasis has another way of manifesting itself, and it is called tolerance. For example, someone who rarely drinks will get drunk quickly, while someone who drinks regularly will have to drink more because she has developed a tolerance to alcohol, making her less sensitive to its effects.

IT’S NOT MUCH DIFFERENT WITH DOPAMINE. Your body tries to maintain homeostasis, so it downregulates your dopamine levels. Basically, your body gets used to having high levels of dopamine, and it now becomes your new normal, so you develop a tolerance to dopamine.

This is a big problem because activities that don’t give you much dopamine no longer interest you, so you don’t feel motivated to do them. You feel bored and have less fun because it doesn’t release much dopamine. That’s why we like to play video games and browse social networks instead of studying or working. Video games make us feel free, good, and comfortable since they release a good amount of dopamine that is released when studying or working.

That is why drug addicts find it difficult to lead a normal life. They take drugs, and their dopamine tolerance increases so much that their normal lives can’t match it. They become like the rats in those previous experiments who have no motivation to do anything. It’s like when we experience the effects of high dopamine, we simply cannot enjoy behaviors with low dopamine levels.

Now this begs the question: Is there anything that can be done to prevent this? The answer is to do a dopamine detox.

What you are going to do is→ reserve a day when you are going to avoid all highly stimulating activities. You’ll stop flooding your brain with high amounts of dopamine and get your dopamine receptors back on track.

For a whole day, you will have a little fun without the Internet, without technology like your phone or computer, listening to music, or eating junk food. You will eliminate all sources of external pleasure throughout the day. You’re going to embrace boredom. And believe me, there will be a lot of boredom. However, you are allowed to do the following: go for a walk, meditate, be alone with your thoughts, reflect on life and your goals, and write down any ideas you have on a physical piece of paper.

All of this may seem intense, but if you want radical results and want them fast, you need to be able to take radical action.

You have to ask yourself, Why would this work?

Let’s say you’ve been eating every day at the best restaurant in your city. So, those fancy meals become your new normal. If you are offered a plate of rice, you will probably refuse it, as it is not fancy restaurant food.

But if you’re stranded on an island and you’re starving, then that bowl of rice won’t seem so bad.

That’s what dopamine detox does. It deprives you of all the pleasure you normally get and, in turn, makes those activities more desirable. Simply put, dopamine detox works because you get bored, and it makes those boring things more fun.

Now, if you don’t want extreme pressure or if you don’t want to deprive yourself of all the pleasure, you can do a smaller dopamine detox.

Pick a day of the week, and you will completely refrain from doing one of your dopamine-intensive behaviors. You can do everything else, but the behavior you choose is prohibited.

You’ll get a little bored, but that’s the point. Let your dopamine receptors recover from the dopamine high. Boredom will then push you to do another task, one that you normally don’t want to do. Since you are bored, it will be easier for you to do them.

Avoiding high dopamine behaviors from time to time is good, but ideally you want to avoid all of these behaviors completely, or as much as possible.

Instead, you can add more dopamine to activities that benefit you, allowing you to do them regularly and giving you long-term benefits. You can do this by using one of your high-dopamine-releasing activities as a reward after completing difficult work.

Track all low-dopamine activities, such as cleaning, studying, or exercising. After doing this to a point, I reward myself with the same amount of high dopamine activity at the end of the day. Notice the keywords here: “after” and “at the end of the day.”

If I indulge in high-dopamine activities first, then I won’t feel like doing low-dopamine activities. I won’t be motivated enough. So, first low dopamine levels, then high dopamine levels…

For example, for a full hour of low-dopamine work, I reward myself with 15 minutes of high-dopamine behavior at the end of the day. That means that for 8 hours of low dopamine, I allow myself about 2 hours of dopamine. Of course, these are my proportions; you can modify them to your liking.

NOTE: If your high-dopamine activity is addictive, such as smoking or drinking, then you should not treat it as a reward. Instead, look for a different one that is not harmful.

If you’re wondering what my guilty pleasure is, it’s the Internet. I get lost there and lose track of time. That’s why I have this system—to be able to control my addiction. But I still have some days where I completely refrain from high-dopamine activities.

I can definitely tell you it’s worth it. So if you don’t have motivation, start detoxing your brain with dopamine ASAP!!!
Separate yourself from the harmful amounts of dopamine that are released. Only then will those normal, everyday behaviors be exciting, and you can do them for longer.

We are all addicted to dopamine to some extent. And that’s good because dopamine motivates us to achieve our goals and improve ourselves.

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