I’ve been reaping dopamine fasting benefits for years.
It started when I realized that contrast is good for me.
For example, after I hadn’t seen my girlfriend for several days, seeing her felt better.
Or after I hadn’t listened to my favorite band for a month, I was more excited to finally play their record.
But recently, I’ve been experimenting with taking dopamine fasting to extremes.
Today, I’ll break down how dopamine fasting changed my life and can change yours.
Check out the companion video if you don’t want to read:
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to motivation.
When we experience pleasure, our neurons release dopamine.
This is how neuro-associative conditioning happens: we associate pleasure with that experience.
And we want this experience more in the future.
Dopamine fasting benefits
Here’s the theory behind dopamine fasting.
Our bodies release too much dopamine today.
This overstimulation comes from social media, technology, sex, food, and so on.
And it causes symptoms such as addiction, lack of motivation, and brain fog.
Dopamine fasting is about reducing the amount of stimulation, hence the amount of dopamine.
And when we do so, it helps reduce all these bad symptoms.
The idea is that by getting less dopamine, we increase the amount of dopamine receptors.
And then, we need less stimulation to feel pleasure.
Even simple activities start to feel great.
Mild dopamine fasting: things I avoid
Every day, I do a mild version of dopamine fasting.
The first part is reducing or eliminating pleasurable activities:
No sleeping in
Waking up and deciding to stay in bed feels great.
But after you start a day with this huge stimulation, the entire day is a challenge.
It’s like you experience the peak state in the morning.
And then everything during the day feels boring in comparison to it.
It seems boring.
But I don’t sleep in.
Yeah, I lose that huge stimulation.
But then the rest of the day isn’t boring anymore.
Distractions feel great, especially when tackling difficult tasks.
It’s a pleasurable escape from your challenges.
But when you go back to work, it feels boring.
So, I stopped all distractions.
And I feel better about my work now.
That’s because my level of pleasure is stable.
I don’t use distractions to create those peaks that make it difficult to return to work.
I write down distractive thoughts so that I can return to them later, e.g., in the evening.
And I noticed that with time, my concentration got better.
No food until dinner
I’ve been eating one meal a day (OMAD) for the last four months.
I love my OMAD results so far.
I don’t have breakfast or lunch—just dinner.
Here’s why it works so well for me.
When I used to eat breakfast or lunch, I’d feel great after them.
That was a spike of dopamine.
But then, I’d return to what I was doing and it would feel boring.
So, now I skip those two meals.
And my mood is a flatline.
There are no peaks caused by meals.
And no troughs caused by returning to less pleasurable activities such as work.
What I also like is that having one big dinner after 22 hours of fasting feels fantastic.
Mild dopamine fasting: things that I add
The second part of fasting is adding activities that help me reflect to rewire myself.
Let’s use a drug addict as an example.
To stop addiction, they need to get off the drug first.
That’s when they’ll see how destructive this addiction is.
And this awareness is a huge step toward breaking this addiction.
Meditation is key while on a dopamine fast:
- It helps me reflect on why I’m fasting in the first place. It’s an opportunity to change unwanted behaviors.
- After meditating long enough, I also started to feel pleasure from meditation. As a result, I crave fancy pleasurable activities less.
Journaling is another way to reflect during dopamine fasting.
I write down everything that I want to change in my life.
For example, when I wanted to break food addiction, I journaled about how hungry I felt.
It made me more aware of my addiction, which was a major step toward beating it.
Yoga is a perfect combination of exercise and mindfulness practice:
- Reflection makes us aware of our shortcomings.
- It’s also a source of pleasure and accomplishment.
I usually do 40 minutes of yoga and then take a contrast shower.
And I always feel great after that.
Mild dopamine fasting: weekends and vacations
Now moving along to rewarding yourself for dopamine fasting.
It’s important to do so, or else fasting will feel too painful and you won’t last long.
Weekdays: in the evening
I allow myself some dopamine-releasing activities in the evening on weekdays.
For example, I have my only meal for that day while listening to an audiobook.
These activities are as simple as possible to keep my dopamine low during the working week.
Sundays and vacations
On Sundays and vacations, I relax my dopamine fasting routine even further:
- I listen to podcasts.
- I watch soccer and movies.
Again, I do these things in the evening—after completing important tasks for the day.
For example, I snowboard in the morning and help my son with his soccer training in the afternoon.
Only after that, I allow myself to go to a sauna, have a meal, and watch a soccer game with my son.
Extreme dopamine fasting
Now, in addition to my daily dopamine fasting routine, I also do extreme fasting on Saturdays.
- I do intermittent fasting: no food for 40+ hours.
- I meditate and journal more.
- I don’t read or watch any content.
Travel makes 100% dopamine fasting easier because you’re in a good mood.
Now moving along to the benefits of dopamine fasting.
Benefit 1: Better concentration
I concentrate better and think more clearly with dopamine fasting.
Distractions such as thoughts of pleasurable activities lose their grip on me.
When I used to allow myself to get distracted, I couldn’t accomplish anything.
But now that I concentrate better, I gain momentum and go into flow.
Benefit 2: More motivation
With dopamine fasting, I find it easier to do what I need to do.
It’s like it positively rechannels my motivation.
Say, previously, 50% of my motivation went into wanting pleasurable activities.
And the other 50% went into wanting to accomplish high-priority tasks.
But after dopamine fasting, it’s like 30% vs 70%, respectively.
Benefit 3: Enjoying pleasurable activities more
Dopamine fasting relies on a powerful life principle:
the more we have, the less we appreciate.
Example from my formative years.
I got into punk rock music in 2000 when I was 18.
I had just a few records available to me back then because I lived in Russia.
I listened to a handful of CDs so many times they wore out.
I also salivated over the records that I couldn’t get.
Looking forward to getting my hands on new CDs made listening to them feel even greater.
Today, with all the music I want (and more) at my fingertips, things are different, though.
I still appreciate music but not quite at the same level as I did 20 years ago.
That’s when I reap this benefit of dopamine fasting
With dopamine fasting, I artificially re-create that feeling of music scarcity.
- When I spend a few days without music today, it feels better when I listen to it.
- I also postpone listening to new albums as long as possible so that I look forward to them more.
The same goes for food: eating one meal a day makes me appreciate it more.
Another example is spending time with my loved ones: I live in a different country now and miss them.
And when I go to see them every couple of months, I appreciate our relationships more.
Benefit 4: Hedonic adaptation
Dopamine fasting makes hedonic adaptation possible.
It’s all about finding pleasure in something less pleasurable than what we used to have.
We can feel the same level of happiness regardless of our circumstances.
We adjust to those circumstances, good or bad, and feel just as happy or sad as we did before.
My example of tweaking taste buds
For example, I used to have a sweet tooth and wanted to stop the addiction.
First, I replaced sweets with cheese sandwiches.
And then I replaced cheese sandwiches with broccoli.
Now that I rewired my taste receptors, broccoli tastes as good as sweets to me.
I watched a video about binge eating by an addiction coach Cali Estes recently.
She wondered why people would overeat sweets but not broccoli.
It made me smile because if I’m going to binge eat these days, it would be on broccoli!
Hedonic adaptation works in other areas as well
Likewise, dopamine fasting helps me rewire myself to find joy in less fancy things in other areas.
- Meditation instead of watching TV.
- Cooking my food instead of going to a restaurant.
- Reading an inspirational book instead of watching a TV show.
So, dopamine fasting helps replace unhealthy pleasurable experiences with healthier alternatives.
Benefit 5: Exercising willpower
The next benefit of dopamine fasting is strengthening willpower.
Exercising willpower helps increase it
I deny myself of many things on a dopamine fasting day.
It’s difficult and requires willpower.
It’s like building muscle with exercise: the more I fast, the stronger my willpower is.
Exercising willpower brings pleasure
Tony Robbins said:
We can retrain our minds to feel the pleasure of discipline.
That’s exactly how I feel by exercising the willpower required for dopamine fasting:
- I feel the pleasure of being in control.
- I also feel a sense of accomplishment.
It does take time to get to that level but it’s worth it.
Reaping dopamine fasting benefits with coaching
If you need help with dopamine fasting, check out my life coaching services.
Disconnecting from too many pleasurable activities will help you decrease brain fog.
You’ll think more clearly and feel motivated to do important things.
You’ll also enjoy life at a higher level.
Here’s a link for you to contact me.