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How Dopamine Fasting Will Make You Enjoy Doing Meaningful and Hard Things

Three ways to boost your ability to do hard things

Photo by Neom on Unsplash

You have probably heard about dopamine before. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for our energy, drive, and enthusiasm.

Dopamine is released to motivate us to accomplish things that help us reproduce or survive.

Food, sex, money, and social status are important for either survival or reproduction. And dopamine is the neurotransmitter that motivates us to work towards those rewards. Dopamine’s primary role is to motivate us. This is good, and it is the reason you are reading this, and I had the motivation to write it.

Without dopamine, you would be like a lazy sloth who never did anything meaningful or productive. Its importance is undeniable.

What is the problem with “easy dopamine”?

In the world today, we are bombarded with “easy dopamine.”

“Easy dopamine” is low-level activities that hijack our brains and release a lot of dopamine without much effort.

Too much easy dopamine will turn you into a couch potato.

Here are some examples of “easy dopamine” activities:

  • Watching online porn

  • Eating junk food

  • Scrolling social media

  • Playing video games

  • Doing drugs

  • Gambling

  • And much more….

“Easy dopamine” can actually destroy you if you don’t limit yourself. You see, if you engage too much in these activities, other things will seem dull in comparison.

If you take drugs or watch a lot of online porn, for instance, pretty fast things you used to enjoy, like playing the guitar or hanging out with friends, can seem boring. Too much “easy dopamine” basically makes you uninterested in doing any meaningful work or pursuing long-term goals.

Now, on the other hand, consider activities that make your life better long-term, such as:

  • Reading

  • Studying

  • Working out

  • Building a business

  • Helping other people

  • Learning new skills

  • And much more…

Activities that are good for our future selves, such as working and reading, can also provide us with feel-good sensations from the glittering buzz of dopamine, but they require much more effort.

We get dopamine from pursuing goals, but it is bleak in comparison to what you get from doing drugs or gambling.

Or, if you spend hours online on entertainment every day, it will seem more pointless to put in the hard work required to reach your goals.

So, why even bother working towards your goals? Why not press the pleasure lever and constantly chase “easy dopamine”?

Well, I did that in my early twenties, and let me tell you, the end result is not a happy one. You will ruin your life if you chase too much easy pleasure. And it will take tremendous effort to turn things around.

I remember periods of my life where I was so overstimulated that I had literally no motivation to get out of bed in the morning or do anything meaningful with my days. As a result, I spent entire days in front of the computer chasing easy pleasures and watching TV series.

If you spend your time like that, things will get very bad, very fast.

Eventually, I realized something had to change, and I managed to get control of my screen time. I felt motivated to do stuff again and make something of myself pretty fast when the “easy dopamine” was gone.

How dopamine spikes work

Your dopamine levels will go below the baseline after a spike. The more intense the dopamine spike is, the bigger the drop will be below the baseline.

As dopamine is responsible for your motivation, a drop below the baseline will make you feel sluggish and unmotivated.

This is the state where you just want to watch the next Netflix episode, and turning off the TV and returning to your life almost seems painful.

If you check your email, read online newspapers, and spend an hour on TikTok before your workday, your dopamine levels will crash below the baseline.

You will have trouble getting much done because your brain will find the work in front of you is too boring compared to the easy stimuli you have available at your fingertips. Your brain would rather continue chasing high-dopamine rewards. So, you sit there getting nothing done.

When your dopamine is below the baseline, your brain will crave instant gratification. So, it is basically a downward spiral where we get triggered to chase more “easy dopamine” from other places.

So, starting the day by doomscrolling can ruin your whole day.

How to build your ability to do hard things

If you consciously avoid too much “easy dopamine,” your pleasure center will become rebalanced, and you will experience more motivation and pleasure.

Here are three ways you can make it easier to do hard things:

  1. Optimize your dopamine levels by practicing dopamine fasting

By consciously limiting your exposure to easy dopamine, you will be way ahead of the pack, and your quality of life will increase!

Even simple strategies can go a long way, such as:

  • Avoid checking your phone the first hour after waking up.

  • No social media before noon.

  • Avoid things such as drugs, online porn, social media in excess, and binge-watching series and movies.

Here is perhaps the coolest part.

Some activities can help us increase our dopamine levels in the long term!

  • Meditation. This study shows that some people experience up to 65 % higher dopamine levels during meditation without a crash afterward. According to this study, it could potentially increase your baseline levels as well.

  • Cold exposure, such as cold showers or cold baths, increases dopamine for hours in the aftermath without a crash.

  • Working out can both increase dopamine receptors and increase levels of circulating dopamine!

These activities basically have the opposite effect on our brain and body from addiction.

So, if you have overstimulated yourself and avoid “easy dopamine,” you will end up feeling like a normal, healthy person.

But if you also take up some of the habits above, such as cold exposure, meditation, or working out, you can supercharge your dopamine system and end up in a better spot than most people.

2. Make it easier to delay gratification by becoming more connected to your future self.

If you start caring more about your future self, you will find it easier to work hard. After all, working hard is something we do to ensure our future selves have more opportunities. To make that worthwhile, you must care about your future.

Most people don’t have a concept of self that stretches more than six months into the future. By thinking about how you want your life to look in 3 or 5 years, it will become a lot easier to delay gratification.

3. Your willpower works pretty much like a muscle. So, you can train it and become stronger.

Every time something is inconvenient, you have the chance to work on your willpower.

It is, by definition, when you don’t feel like doing something that you can strengthen your willpower. And if you get stronger willpower, working hard will be a lot easier.

Final thoughts

Dopamine fasting is about letting your dopamine system rebalance itself. We can even do certain things that will “supercharge” it, such as working out and meditating.

If you have a sensitized dopamine system, no challenge will seem too big, and joy and pleasure will surround you wherever you go. Your level of stimulation will be lower, and suddenly, you will find it easy to work towards your goals and dreams.

Self-regulation is the key to this in the distraction-packed world we live in.

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