Dopamine Detox – Secret Weapon To Taking Charge And Do What You Want

Dopamine Molecule

Ever want to do something constructive like work on that business idea, get pen to paper, or just do your work, but then find yourself unable to focus?

Been there, it’s the worst.

The answer lies in your sources of dopamine and escape loops.

And guess what, most of what you’ve heard on this is probably all wrong. I’m looking at you Silicon Valley people. You 100% don’t need to live on a water-only diet, eliminate all eye contact, and avoid sunlight like you’re Nosferatu..

Quick Anecdote

Strive should have started back in 2016. I bought a bunch of ingredients to craft with and got so excited because I loved skincare and wanted to start a business. When it came time to do any actual work, I had zero motivation and would do anything but the work. My mind said maybe I am just not that kind of person or maybe I just don’t want this enough.

The reality was I was just way too plugged in to dating apps, porn, social media, and video games. Constant stimulation was required. I couldn’t have any sort of downtime, even if I was just walking somewhere or sitting on the john.

Low and behold in January 2021 when I completely cut porn, then regulated my use of social media and video games, the prospect of actually starting a business magically became more exciting than before. It became so easy to get myself to work and I even craved working on Strive for hours every day.

A Little Confession…

The title here is a little misleading. Detoxes, like diets, tend to have temporary results when they aren’t coupled with lasting lifestyle changes. So if you just temporarily want more focus, detox away my friend.

Our focus here is going to be on how to consistently get yourself to do the higher effort, but ultimately more fulfilling things in life that you really want to do. We are making the minor trade of dopamine in the short run for a major trade of serotonin in the long run.

Young Black man with glasses and headphones on his iphone

Does this look like you?

Dopamine Explained

First, a little bit of background if you’re unfamiliar with this subject. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical your body releases that helps us strive, focus and find things interesting. When we experience pleasurable events like eating great food, sexual activity, drug use, or playing video games dopamine is released.

That delicious double bacon cheeseburger with steak fries? Dopamine city. When you eat that burger and feel oh so good doing it, your brain assumes that the good feeling is a reward and encourages you to repeat this behavior. Thus, escape loops are born.

No burger shaming, but this isn’t exactly the healthiest food choice and it’s easy to imagine what you would look and feel like if you ate that magical meal on a daily basis. The burger brings you short-term good feels(Dopamine), but eating it regularly will lower your long-term feelings of well-being and happiness(Serotonin).

Basically, dopamine serves as the reward that reinforces our behaviors, even if they are poor behaviors that will make us less happy in the long run. So when you want to spend 3 hours a day working on your side hustle but instead find yourself engaging in escape loops like compulsively checking your phone, watching YouTube, watching porn, playing games, sporadically cleaning, or literally just Googling random things; this is because your brain is opting for what it knows feels good right now vs something much better for you in the long term.

Sour Patch Kids

High dopamine activities are like Sour Patch Kids, they can make everything else seem less sweet in comparison.

Metaphor Time

A nice fresh Honeycrisp apple is quite delicious. Do you know what is even more delicious? Sour Patch Kids. When you eat those first gummy tangy children you feel tingles on your tongue that reverberate throughout your entire body and you are in a state of pure bliss. Now after eating 1 serving of Sour Patch Kids(Approx: the entire bag), if you eat that fresh Honeycrisp apple, it just doesn’t taste that sweet in comparison, despite being sweet in its own right. To be clear. The Apple is the positive personal habit you want to do and the Sour Patch Kids are the high dopamine low effort distractions.

A world without Bacon Cheeseburgers and Sour Patch Kids is a dark sad world. I’m not advocating for cutting out everything you enjoy completely and forever. What I am suggesting is that you be mindful of how often you engage in low effort, high dopamine activities and how they impact you.

The better you regulate your dopamine and escape loops, the more drive you will have to engage in higher effort activities that you want to do. 

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The better you regulate your dopamine and escape loops, the more drive you will have to engage in higher effort activities that you want to do. 

Where/How do I start?

Okay, you want to do the things that will bring you more long-term fulfillment and you want to give this a shot. Where do you begin? How long do you do this? Do you just cut out everything and live like a monk in total isolation? No sir!

The Strategy

Start with your most damaging escape loop. If you cut out everything at once, you will fail. That is just entirely too difficult. You also don’t want to cut out too little, or you won’t have enough excitement from the change to follow through. What you cut should be big enough to excite you, but seem a little daunting at the same time.

Let’s generalize a bit here with what are some of the common damaging escape loops for men.

  1. Substance Abuse
  2. Porn 
  3. Several Hours of Video Games
  4. Binging on Streaming Video
  5. Heavy Social Media/Phone Use
Substance Abuse 

We aren’t going to get into this one, as this is a very complex area that may require the help of a professional. If you are heavily using hard drugs or alcohol frequently, know these are extremely high dopamine-releasing activities that can permanently damage your dopamine receptors and much more.

Porn 

Suggestion: Cut cold turkey

This one is near and dear to my heart as I have personally struggled with a porn/sex addiction. This has nothing to do with religious beliefs, not being sex-positive or some moral high ground. Porn usage results in an insane amount of dopamine being released with little to no effort.

Your eyes are delivered endless HD content and novelty of whatever you want, at the click of a button. Oh, and it doesn’t help that this is reinforced by a reward that makes Sour Patch Kids look like a plate of dry Kale.

Porn has no place in a man’s life and if you are watching multiple times per week, this simply has to go.

Video Games

Suggestion: Regulate to weekends or to specific times

How are you going to get that sweet new piece of loot, how are you going to up your game to hit Grandmaster rank?

I love video games as much as the next guy, but the problem is that unless it’s your career, it’s probably not providing you with long-term fulfillment and satisfaction. Video games are designed to stimulate your dopamine receptors and keep you hooked. 

It’s not just the time you spend on the game. It’s the time you spend thinking about the game. When you take a shower, instead of thinking about how to solve your problems that actually matter, you spend that valuable time thinking about how to increase your damage per second in World of Warcraft.

Streaming Video

Suggestion: Regulate to weekends or to specific times

Netflix, Sports, and YouTube. That new series you binged on? 40 hours long. Catching every single game from your favorite teams in multiple sports and then researching stats and drama? Stimulation for days.

“Let’s just watch this one video on YouTube… oh this recommended one looks great too… let’s just open up a few tabs.”

You get the point. The bottom line here is these things are really sneaky with consuming a lot of your time and attention.

Social Media/Phone Use

Suggestion: Limit per day usage time and how often you can check your phone or open apps

Ever get to the end of your day, ask yourself what you did today, and wonder where the time went? That wondrous oversized device in your pocket is a likely culprit.

We humans love novelty and surprise, so when we see that red notification or hear its sound, we just want to check our phones immediately. Sweet sweet dopamine baby.

If you’re constantly refreshing your Insta feed, swiping on Tinder, or answering every notification your phone gives you, you will never be able to get into a state of focus and get things done.

Duration

As far as how long you should do this, that is entirely up to you. You’ll probably be a lot more strict if you just need one month of absolute focus than if you are working on something over years. 30 days is usually a good point to determine if there have been positive benefits in your behavior changes and that’s around the time habits begin to form.

Conclusion

By reducing or eliminating your most damaging high dopamine escape loops that provide little long-term satisfaction, you will find much more motivation to do the things that you know you want to do but just can’t seem to get yourself to do. This will help you build more positive habits that become easy to maintain and ultimately live a life that you can be proud of. Being the man you want to be isn’t easy, but the best things don’t come easy.

You’ve got this my friends.

What is something you want to do that you’ve been having difficulty focusing on?

Angel is the Founder and Lead chemist of Strive. He is a graduate of the Institute of Personal Care Science and a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Fan of PB&Js, the gym, video games, piano & UFC.