Hustle Culture

A Dopamine Detox Will Do Nothing For You

Nor will any other Self-Improvement Hack

A few months ago I came to know a shiny new self-improvement hack: The Dopamine Detox.

Like a lot of other people, I was in desperate need of my life becoming more efficient by the hour. I wanted to be able to do everything without the need for vacations or mental breakdowns.

So, I began the search for anything the Internet could offer. The Good and the Bad. The Viral and the Hidden Gems.

The need to perform

The first time I stumbled upon the term Dopamine Detox, was on YouTube. This short, informative video taught me more about what a Dopamine Detox was. You were supposed to abstain from anything increasing your dopamine levels, for 24 hours (or more). The ultimate goal: allowing your brain to recover.

In short, it meant you had to stop rewarding your brain so it liked doing boring things again.

I became instantly infatuated with the idea of a single day quadrupling my productivity just like that. Of course, I was a little suspicious as well, but overall I mainly felt excited.

I was in desperate need of change. My brain was heavily overloaded with information about anything and everything. I was in a constant state of doing and consuming. No wonder I got so easily distracted and bored by the things my brain deemed not exciting enough.

Like working, or studying.

After seeing this initial video, I thought to myself: “Great. I’m definitely gonna do this someday.” But like many other things I had on my evergrowing Todo-List, it would be a while until I’d take the time to actually do it.

A few months later, I drew closer to a serious mental breakdown. I didn’t see how I would be able to take a break, because there was simply too much to do, and I was the only one able to do it. Though this wasn’t the case, I felt trapped by the responsibilities I couldn’t let go of.

I knew I needed to do something. I needed a shortcut to wellness. That’s when I remembered the Dopamine Detox.

Perfect. A quick way out of my misery. I would come out of it like a shiny new diamond. I would become a better version of myself.

Everything felt different. I was soaking up my reading in half the time. I had the concentration span of someone on Adderall.

The Fallacy

From that point on, everything happened pretty quickly. I decided to find out as much as I could about it, to be as prepared as humanly possible.

I decided I would provide my own set of rules just to make sure I would have the best chances of success:

  • No Screens
  • No Books
  • No Music

I basically just allowed myself to write down my thoughts and go for a walk.
I texted my family, so they’d know only to call me on the landline and to do so just in case of an emergency.

I talked my boyfriend into doing it with me. We would only be eating pumpernickel and drinking water for the entire day.

To be honest, I was super excited. I felt relief to finally have a reason to just stop the madness. I’d be in for a vacation.
And that’s kind of what this day felt like: a vacation. I had received a free pass to be lazy with the ability to convince myself it was for the greater good.
Win-win situation, right?

For the 2 days following my Detox, it was.

It felt as if I was reborn. Everything felt different. I was soaking up my reading in half the time. I had the concentration span of someone on Adderall. It was a hell of a ride.

But it didn’t last for long.

And the reason turned out to be quite simple: Nothing had changed.

It can be truly incredible to see what your brain is capable of if you just let it rest for a second. But doing it once won’t change the fact, that you’re doing too much, to begin with.

We pride ourselves on being as productive as possible and seek self-improvement to be able to achieve more.

Chasing Efficiency

Seeing those instant changes and the inevitable crash afterward, made me think. When did it become so hard for me to do the simplest of things?

Why is everything hard when it should be easy?

I chased efficiency. Trying to make it all work in my favor. I never really showed interest in taking breaks to rest. Breaks were taken to be able to work more.
And even if I struggled a lot, I was still able to do it. So I just kept doing it. Everything needed to be done, I didn’t even question it.

When you’re too focused on efficiency, you need to be able to do as many things as possible in as little time as possible.
You don’t sort out projects, you just sort them.

A lot of people have been talking about the benefits of saying no. But it’s not just about learning how to say no, it’s also about wanting to say no.

I didn’t struggle because somebody was forcing me to do all of these things, I struggled because I wanted to be able to do them.

We pride ourselves on being as productive as possible and seek self-improvement to be able to achieve more. We aren’t satisfied with doing the bare minimum. We need to prove to ourselves we are capable of more.

Turns out, reaching your fullest potential might feel good for a second, but there’s always more you could be doing. There’s always somebody that does it all plus this one thing more.

The Takeaway

Being so concerned with making it all work, I forgot what I was even doing it for.
Self-Improvement hacks and the hustle culture behind it, made me think I had to be able to work like a beast without getting distracted by anything. They also made me think I had to have a Todo-List keeping me busy from early morning till late at night.

Even when at my lowest, I only took breaks to come out the other side a better Self, able to work twice as hard.

But that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. You don’t need to be doing any of this. You just want to.

And knowing that, can free up space to question whether or not it’s a good thing, to begin with. And in turn to maybe change it.

Not having a lot on your plate can give you time. Not time to do more, just time. It’s hard to let go of those patterns. To do just a couple of things, instead of all the things.

But it may be worth much more than people think.

It could make it much easier to find a life of purpose. One with rewards that are not only worth achieving, but worth living.

UX Designer based in Germany. I write about Mental Health, UX, Psychology and Self.

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