#Dopamine #fast #wean
The hardest part is knowing how to resist the urge to take a quick look.
Your morning coffee, your pain au chocolat, your twitter, facebook or even Instagram accounts, your favorite Netflix series, your smartphone or your compulsive purchases… They are all prime dopamine providers. For your brain, all these activities, as different as they are, are stimulating. The fact of practicing them encourages you to release the dopamine that tickles your neurons giving you pleasure… a lot of pleasure but it remains ephemeral.
Attracted by this pleasant sensation, we are attracted to everything that is capable of giving us pleasure throughout the day. Fired up with dopamine, our body offers itself in small or large doses… depending on how addicted it is. “These activities provoke different sensations, because they go through different paths. The sight, the hearing, the taste… But if we don’t make the connection between Netflix or sugar, the brain is not wrong”, explains the American neuroendocrinologist Robert Lustig.
According to this practicing professor at the University of California, the human brain interprets and understands both practices in the same way: as a reward. A reward that remains punctual and above all ephemeral, hence the perpetual desire to renew experiences of pleasure. Even worse ! By dint of receiving rewards, the latter lose their value with time and “use”. “By dint of being stimulated, the pleasure neurons saturate. They are inhibited. To find the same sensations, we ask even more”, explains Professor Lustig.
A race for pleasure that takes place in a hypnotizing way. We focus on our own pleasure, we abandon the rest, we lose concentration and insight… The brain is in a daze.
What is dopamine fasting?
Currently in vogue among Silicon Valley’s elite, this particular fast is, in fact, dopamine deprivation. A forced and voluntary weaning that helps to dispense with “artificial” stimulators of pleasure and focus on what is essential. “The act of ‘retiring’ probably makes life more interesting when you come back to it,” argues Cameron Sepah, a clinical professor of psychiatry in San Francisco in an article posted on LinkedIn. “By taking a break from behaviors that cause a high release of dopamine, especially repeatedly, our brain recovers,” says the specialist.
An argument that seems to convince more and more followers around the world but also in Morocco. “I was going through a rough patch and decided to do a dopamine fast for 40 days. No social networks, no television, no internet connection. I even ditched coffee and artificial sugar just fruit. I assure you that I felt regenerated. A more alive mind and a lighter body. I felt liberated,” says Hind Herrak, a young employee from Casablanca.
A feeling of freedom that he shares with a good number of people who have managed to leave for a time that can be long or short. “For me it was only for fifteen days. I was preparing for my end-of-year exams and couldn’t concentrate. Then the idea came to me to withdraw from social networks. And it was like a revelation. Much more time available, better concentration and greater efficiency,” says Réda Benâyach, a second-year dental internship student.
Since this first quite satisfying experience, the young student has been regularly renewing his dopamine fast. “A kind of cures that allow me to rest my brain and re-experience the pleasure of repeating these practices later,” he says with a smile.
Along the same lines, a study carried out by the American magazine Niemann Lab among 1,800 students at Texas A&M University was able to measure the effects of a week without Facebook. At the end of this directed abstinence, the students said they were “significantly less sad.”
A very positive effect for these volunteer fasters, but not everyone appreciates it. “But why should we deprive ourselves of the only accessible pleasures? We unemployed have nothing more to entertain ourselves than social networks, the internet or television,” Rajaa replies. M, in a Facebook group in reaction to a post advocating dopamine fasting. “I have no problem becoming addicted since I have a lot of time to devote to it,” she jokes.
Opposite effect ?
Far from being ironic, critics of dopaminergic fasting evoke an effect contrary to what was expected. According to Joydeep Bhattacharya, who heads the Neuroscience and Cognition Research Group at the University of London, dopamine is produced during the anticipation of the reward and not when it is felt. “So during the fasting period, abstinence could stimulate the imagination of the fasting person. The latter will thus anticipate the future reward and his brain will automatically release dopamine ”, explains the scientist.
A scientific fact that can also explain the difficulty of capturing and zapping gestures that have become automatic. Even the most ardent followers of fasting recognize that the temptation to take a look is the worst test to overcome in this fight against addiction. Do you think you can do it?