A digital detox : Involves moving away from all digital gadgets for a period of time.
A dopamine detox/fast : Involves distancing yourself from anything that increases your dopamine, "the happy hormone", so that you can concentrate on important tasks at hand.
Over the years, I've combined the two to create my own type of detox - a Digital Dopamine Detox.
When I'm focused on something, I give it my 100%. But I also get easily distracted, which is why I go all out to keep every single distraction away, especially when I have examinations or important deadlines approaching.
Like for most people, my phone is my biggest distraction, because of the following apps (let's call them "the distractors") :
YouTube : You start with one video, and you end up watching twenty at a stretch.
Television series streaming apps : Once you start watching a television series, it's hard to not watch many episodes at a time.
Social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) : You spend hours scrolling through your feed, even when you don't want to -- for most people on social media, FOMO is real.
Other apps : Any app that makes us overthink about random things/people -- News apps, Pinterest, etc.
"The distractors" provide us with tons of dopamine, but take our focus away from the more important and "boring" things that we really need to do.
Press "delete" :
Tell me if this doesn't sound familiar -- you sit down to write/read/meditate, but then you get a notification about a new video posted by your favourite YouTuber. Instead of writing/reading/meditating, you start watching the video, and before you know it, you've spent 3 hours watching the most randomly recommended videos.
So what is the most logical thing to do? Get rid of the apps! It's that simple.
What I personally do when I have a deadline approaching is, I uninstall all "the distractors".
(The apps which are pre-installed on the phone are the most problematic, but most phones have options to either lock them or disable them.)
For years I even kept WhatsApp uninstalled from my phone, because texting friends distracted me a lot, as I would overthink about each interaction for days on end. I used to isolate myself from everyone and everything in order to concentrate on my studies, and although it may have seemed a little drastic to others, it worked for me.
Change is difficult :
Trust me when I say that a digital dopamine detox, like any detox, is extremely difficult in the beginning. For the first few days, it will actually feel like you're having withdrawal symptoms - you'll feel extremely irritated/frustrated, and you'll find yourself reaching for your phone and wanting to re-install all the apps you just deleted.
Think of it this way - you were always irritated/frustrated, but you kept distracting yourself with videos/shows/social media, so as to not tackle your personal issues head-on. Now that you're away from "the distractors", you have no option but to sit still with your mind, and have an honest conversation with yourself about how you aim to heal.
It's important to understand that any change, although initially difficult, gets easier with time. You just need to stay strong and fight the initial discomfort, and once you experience the benefits of detoxing, there's no looking back.
Benefits of the Digital Dopamine Detox :
1) You'll feel less anxious : When I have tons of work to do, and I spend hours watching a TV series or YouTube videos, I get extremely anxious. I start berating myself about wasting so much time, and the dopamine rush I felt when I was watching those shows/videos, quickly disappears. When you do the detox, all that anxiety and frustration quickly melts away.
2) You'll get more work done : Goes without saying, less distractions = lesser procrastination = more work done. All the time you spent on "the distractors", you will now have on hand, to concentrate on the important work you've had to do for weeks.
3) You'll get creative : Whenever you free your mind of clutter, you'll be able to think more clearly, and you'll come up with excellent ideas and solutions to problems you would have otherwise never thought of. We spend so much time on our phones, that we rarely give ourselves the time to think freely.
4) You'll feel in control : I've read articles about how social media apps are designed to keep one hooked for hours. By staying away from "the distractors", you'll end up feeling more in control - of your time and of yourself.
5) You'll feel energised : You'll suddenly have a lot of time on hand -- time you can use to meditate, to take a short nap, to exercise -- all the good things that will make you truly happy and energised.
6) You'll be able to get to the root of your problems : Most people take to drinks/drugs/gambling to avoid introspecting and solving their problems. Our mobile phones and "the distractors" are also addictions that prevent us from achieving any form of self-growth. When we free ourselves from them, we enable ourselves to view our mind in a much clearer way, which can often feel really scary and uncomfortable in the beginning. However, it's infinitely better to feel a little discomfort now, than to have a major health scare a few years down the line.
Personally, whenever I do a digital dopamine detox, I'm able work/study with tremendous concentration, as well as introspect, listen to good self-help podcasts, read and write. (Articles which I've postponed writing for weeks, including this one, I've managed to write within an hour, whenever I have done the detox.)
All of us are intelligent enough not to be controlled by "the distractors" -- all we need is to have the courage to press "delete".
Tip : Try doing the detox for a few weeks or months before you have an important examination or work deadline.
You can definitely install "the distractors" again, once you're done with your deadline, but make sure that you practice the detox every few weeks, or for a few days per week.
As I always say, do what works best for you. But remember, don't run away from change. It's difficult in the beginning, but totally worth it in the end!
Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!