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Dopamine Detox: How to Trick Your Brain Into Liking Difficult Things

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dopamine detox

Think about the last time you pushed yourself to the limits in a good way and how it felt. Sometimes, it’s easier to just spend hours scrolling through social media compared to starting the tasks that are due soon. Consciously, you know that completing the task is the right thing to do. But it just seems easier, safer, and more rewarding to stay lost within your cyberspace.

Even if you end up achieving nothing, extreme comfortability might lead you to believe that comfort is more rewarding and satisfying than doing any work. Instead of challenging yourself, you start doing things that make you feel at ease. If you practice your brain to settle with comfort, you become distressed when discomfort happens. 

To understand why these circumstances happen and how dopamine detox work, let's talk about the neurotransmitter dopamine

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in the brain and is more commonly known as “the pleasure molecule.” According to clinical psychologist and neuroscientists Michael Treadway, dopamine has less to do with pleasure, and more to do with motivation. The neurotransmitter acts before you perform or accomplish a task by signaling your brain with an expectation of a reward.

So how do you trick your brain to overcome obstacles that are hindering your will to get things done? Or how can you take control of your mind, and force it to obey your commands? 

The answer is, you can’t. 

Your brain is stubborn, and forcing it to do something that it doesn’t want won’t make it listen. In fact, trying to use force to get your brain to do what you want is only going to make it even more stubborn. Instead of using force, a much more effective way of getting your brain to do what you want is to use influence. 

For example, if you badly want to finish a task but you feel so sleepy even if it’s just mid afternoon, you would most likely listen to your laziness. But if you tell yourself that once you finish this task, you can enjoy the whole night and sleep earlier or go out with your friends, you might reconsider your choices. You are allowing your brain to make its own decisions. And when your brain wants to do something by itself, that creates desire. It also applies to working, exercising, or cleaning your home. 

Here are a few hacks on how to trick your brain into doing what you want.

Split the tasks and use “Micro Goals” to start.

During the work hours, we are loaded with meetings, task submissions, interviews and whatnot. It is obvious to get overwhelmed with so many things. When this happens, the brain itself sits down demotivated. The simplest way to get away from the burden is to divide it into different sections and timelines. For example, finishing meetings between 12 pm to 2 pm, followed by submitting tasks by 2 pm to 3 pm, and so on. 

Micro Goals

Now as you complete one task, tell your brain that it will be rewarded with a coffee break, a quick call to your mother to share the joy, or watch a funny video. Splitting of tasks would let you focus on one task at a time and give you space to breathe in between.

Think about the consequences of your inaction

Instead of focusing on what needs to be done, ask yourself the question: “What is the cost of setting this task aside once more?” For example, if you usually go to the gym 3 times a week, but are feeling lazy that week, what is the cost of slacking off? Or think about what could happen when you set aside doing that slideshow presentation. How much of a promotion would it cost you again? 

People are motivated more by loss than by reward. The thought of losing what you already have is sometimes far greater fear than having something to gain. Focusing on what you have to lose is one way to influence your brain to do what you want.

Use fear or the risk of loss as a motivator.

Evaluate the cost of indecision

If you have difficulty making decisions, you are in trouble. Most people are indecisive because they are afraid of being wrong. They are afraid that their decision will result in some kind of consequence. However, the reality is, not making a decision has consequences in itself. 

The other consequence of being indecisive is wasting time. Time is a precious resource that can never be refunded. Once you spend it, it’s gone. Instead of wasting your time pondering about whether or not to do something, make a decision and stick with it. Even if it turns out to be a bad decision, you can always learn from your mistakes and move on.

Remember that you only live once

Many people follow a traditional way of thinking. They want to save money, live below their means, and not take risks. There is nothing wrong with living below your means. But being too complacent and not taking risks in any aspect of your life can cost you opportunities.

About 76% of people regret not taking action on something that would allow them to grow. What we do with the short amount of time we have, determines whether or not life was worth living. Our emotions, happiness, success, and sense of achievement are based on what we do, not what we didn’t do. 

Get enough sleep!

In the usual course of the dopamine cycle, higher levels of this hormone is observed during the day. This keeps you alert and focused. Having lower dopamine levels at night help you rest and sleep. Not getting enough sleep can result in lower dopamine levels during the day and this, in turn, leads to a lack of motivation to get things done.

Enough Sleep

A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that low levels of dopamine resulted in not even attempting to move or eat. Along with the fatigue from not getting enough rest, lack of sleep can also compound negative feelings of stress and demotivation. With enough quality sleep, you get to regulate the feelings like anxiety, stress, fear, etc

People who don’t get enough deep sleep tend to be more reactive about any negative emotions at hand. This upsets your mood and motivation and naturally impairs your ability to be more productive and absorbing.

Reduce your screen time.

Reducing the time you spend on social media, and getting enough exercise (both things I recommend for regulating dopamine levels) can help you get better sleep. For device usage, in particular, the blue light from your screen disrupts your body’s circadian rhythms by tricking the brain into thinking that it’s daytime, and it needs to be alert and active. As a result of the subconscious expectation of reward, you might find yourself on your phone through the night, feeding into your inability to sleep. Unfortunately, this affects your dopamine levels and motivation the next day.

Getting enough quality sleep ensures that you wake up well-rested with your dopamine levels rejuvenated and your brain in its alpha wave mode – a calm, clear-headed state that’s best for learning.

The bottom line of all this

We only have a certain amount of time left on this planet, and that time is only getting shorter as the days go by. Being indecisive, hesitant, or allowing yourself to slack off doesn’t help you become a better person. It only leads to a life that is filled with regret about things you should have done. Instead of playing it safe, you should be looking for something great. Take risks from time to time and do the things you’ve always wanted to do. After all, we only have one life to live. We may as well make the best of it by taking that leap of faith to see what awaits us on the other side.

In reality, the only thing that separates you from becoming successful as well is the kind of mindset you have. That’s the difference between ordinary people and successful ones — successful people know how to trick their brains and shift their routine.

Hence, keep your dopamine levels balanced and spread positivity around the world. 

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