I go to the gym nowadays, To lose weight! I go to the gym on my bike! I park my bike in the parking, and my gym is on the first floor! And it takes around 2-3 minutes to get there! Do you know what I do in those 2-3 minutes? I take my mobile out and start watching reels one after one! On this, my friend has also hit me many times that you’ve become addicted to reels. But I used to ignore him.
But after some time, I realized I’d become addicted to reels and short videos. And that day, I also realized that it’s not about those 2-3 minutes, even after going to the gym when we do sets, and when we get some time between those sets, in that too, I start scrolling my mobile. And it’s not about just me.
I’ve seen many people doing it. Whenever we get even a little time, we start scrolling on mobile. And because of this, my gym trainer keeps everyone’s mobile in his pocket.
So that they can focus on the gym; you may have seen it many times. We are also getting starving!
If we feel hungry and don’t get food early, we start getting angry! When we often try to sleep early at night, we can’t sleep! Again at that time, we start scrolling on mobile and waste many hours. Due to this many times, we aren’t able to wake up early in the morning, which we think we will wake up! And I’ve noticed many such things in me and others. If I tell you specifically, I’ve noticed four things.
1. Attention span is decreasing excessively. We don’t have patience for deep work. Doing deep work for hours is too far; if we start watching a series as time pass, we cannot finish it because we start feeling bored.
2. Many times, when we go for a workout, or to meet someone, the connection of our mind with our body or with another person, stays weak many times. Why? Because we stay distracted because of our mobile phones, which neither our muscles make many times nor our relationships.
3. We Can’t sleep well at night these days!
4. We are getting addicted to junk food.
Now, the sources of those four problems can be different, but there is one common reason behind all these four problems. What’s that? That reason is dopamine.
Dopamine, which we call the ‘feel good hormone.’ It plays a significant role. But why is it creating so many problems in our life? How can we deal with it? How can we get out of this addiction?
Not just for the short term but for the long term. I am going to tell you all these things with the help of a book named ‘Dopamine Detox’ by Thibaut Meruis.
So, let’s start:
Edward Thorndike Experiment
In 1989, Edward Thorndike experimented. He kept some cats in a puzzle box and put a fish out of that puzzle box, due to which those cats got excited. And then those cats used to act randomly. Cats were not able to understand in starting how to get out. But then they found a liver. And when those cats pressed that liver randomly, that box opened instantly, and then those cats ate that fish! This means they got a reward!
After that experiment was done again, that cat understood that if I pressed the liver, I’d get fish! Their habit started to develop, and they started doing it repeatedly! Inspired by this experiment, psychologist Burrhus Fredric Skinner, also called B.F. Skinner also did some experiments.
Three Different Experiments Finding Different Results
1. Positive Reinforcement
He put a hungry rat in a cage. After which, the rat was roaming here and there to eat! He was not getting any food! But he found a liver! And when he pressed that liver randomly, he started getting food in that cage! From this, he learned one thing, and that was positive reinforcement. This means whenever I do this behavior, pull this liver; I’ll get a reward i.e. food!
This concluded whenever you get positive reinforcement, which means you get a positive reward because of your actions, then you do that thing. The thing was, those rats were pressing the liver when they were hungry! Otherwise, they didn’t press it.
2. Negative Reinforcement
This time they put the stuffed cats in the cage! They were not feeling hungry, so they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t pressing the liver. But they started giving a little shock to the cat.
Due to this, that cat started suffering. It started doing something and stopped getting shocks when it pressed the liver!
Now, that was a negative reinforcement. Because of this, whenever the light comes on, and the cat knows it is about to get shocked, it quickly goes to the liver and presses it!
So that it doesn’t get shocked! This experiment concluded that whenever we get negative reinforcement i.e. suffering, we take action and do something.
3. Variable Rewards
This time, they put a rat in the cage whose stomach was full. But after some time, when it felt hungry, he pressed the liver because he had learned that food comes when it is pressed.
But this time, the food didn’t come. Then it presses one more time. Then, a little food came this time. Then it pressed again, and the food didn’t come. When it pressed one more time, food came again! When the rat pressed the liver many times, it started getting different rewards at different times.
Due to this, you know, that rat was not pressing its liver to get food; after that, it got addicted to pressing the liver because it was getting variable rewards, which is called Dopamine Variable Reward System, which is very addictive.
Do you know why you are so addicted to social media?
The answer is that we get positive reinforcement, which means we get rewards whenever we scroll or swipe our fingers from downside to upside.
We see various videos and photos, which gives us a dopamine rush. And again, the rewards are very variable. Sometimes we see good pics; sometimes, we see nasty pics; sometimes, we see good videos; sometimes, we see nasty videos; we don’t know what we will see next.
Due to this, we get addicted to this system. And guess what? It’s systematically created! Social media companies created these systems to make us addicted. And behave like that rat who keeps pressing the liver in uncontrollable amounts. In our case, it’s scrolling.
Now, because it is psychologically fulfilling and engineered in such a good way, we have become addicted to mobile phones. So, how to cope with it?
21 Days Dopamine Challenge
Let’s see this! Well, the first thing, the first thing that Thibaut Meurisse says in his book is, ‘we should take a 21-days dopamine detox challenge’. I want you to take this challenge too. In this, we must stop ourselves from getting dopamine rush as much as possible.
This means stop using social media, stop using social media, Netflix, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no porn, no tea, no coffee, no music, no video games. NO outdoor activities, no fap, no meeting friends, no gossip, no productivity work.
Now you’ll say the author has refused to do everything. Now, what shall we do? The author asks to do these substitute things.
Drink water, go for runs, do stretching, do meditation, and do journaling. This challenge would be tricky, but your dopamine will reach the base level if you do all these things.
Our dopamine has become overstimulated. This means we keep getting so much dopamine rush, due to which we cannot live everyday life.
Due to this, he takes more drugs. And takes more drugs. His base level of hitting dopamine keeps increasing. And he doesn’t feel the same high, even after taking many drugs.
So, if you want to bring it to the base level, like drug addicts are sent to rehab, in the same way, you also can take a 21-day challenge.
I suggest you start with just one thing. At least quit social media. Don’t use social media for some days. And if you watch a lot of Netflix, stop watching it. Take one or two things, and think of not doing them for 21 days. And very little if I do, negligible! It will help in maintaining the dopamine level. You have to do this thing.
Starve Your Donkey
The relationship between your mind and body is like a person sitting on a donkey. Where your mind is the person, and your body is a donkey. This means if you put a carrot in front of a donkey, it will start moving forward. Similarly, if you get too much porn, caffeine, movies, cigarette, partying, gaming, eating sugar, or consuming anything in excess, your brain releases dopamine.
After which, you feel like doing that thing again! Now you’ll say, what’s the need to do these extreme things? And why should we do it? There is a reason behind it.
Let me explain a concept the author calls ‘Starve your donkey.’ For example, if you are sitting in front of a table, there are lots of chocolates, Ferrero Rocher, and many foreign chocolates on one side.
And on the other side, there are carrots! So, what would you like to eat? Your mind and body would go toward chocolates! Because you’ll get more dopamine rush on eating chocolates! See, eating chocolates once in a while isn’t bad!
But nowadays, the scenario of chocolates and carrots has gone to steroids, you can say! This means we are getting chocolates everywhere! Like McDonald, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix, we get chocolates everywhere. We are getting a lot of dopamine without applying so much effort. Again imagine a person is sitting on a donkey. A person wants a donkey to take him to the destination. To do this, that person keeps a carrot in front of that donkey with the help of a stick! Due to this, the donkey moves forward to eat that carrot.
And he takes action! And that donkey keeps moving like this! But one day, that donkey gets a lot of food! He gets a lot of good things. And his stomach is full! On that day, if the rider puts a carrot in front of him, do you think that donkey will move forward?
It won’t move because his stomach is full! Things like carrots won’t motivate him! This example is a metaphor. You know, that’s our body, you can say! And that rider is our brain! Sometimes, our brain asks our body to exercise, work on our goals, and do all these things. But our body doesn’t agree! Why?
Because our body is getting a lot of dopamine very quickly! TV, drugs, alcohol, and social media, because of all such things. Due to this, our body doesn’t get motivated to take action! So, that’s very important that we take a drastic step, in which we can starve this donkey so they it feels so hungry that if we put a carrot in front of it, it can start moving. Why? Because it’ll give dopamine! It will fill its stomach! That’s why this 21-day challenge can help you a lot! Many people have done this challenge and got results too.
Concealing The Ache
Means relapsing. Many times it happens that we try to come out of an addictive thing. We do that thing for some days, but it feels like doing it again after some days. So, what should we do to avoid it?
Let’s take an example to understand this! You know, the famous sitcom FRIENDS,’ you must have seen it, in that Rachel Jennifer had started journaling at 13. And she says there used to be a rough patch when she was in a relationship, like once she was probably getting divorced. At that time, she was very emotionally vulnerable. What did she do at this time?
Still, she used to do journaling, which gave her a lot of strength. If she wanted, she could take alcohol, weed, all these things to hide her pain. She could get a considerable dopamine release! But still, she chose to face her demons, which means facing her emotions and problems, by writing them down. By journaling. Which helped her to handle her emotions well! Now see, if we take such drastic steps, like quitting dopamine, there are very high chances that we will feel depressed, lonely, anxious, and scared. Why?
Because we humans have all these feelings, but to escape all these things, we start using mobile, start distracting ourselves. But if we quit all these things, you can say, negative reinforcement will start happening. We will start feeling lonely. And we will feel scared! At that time, there was an excellent way to handle our demons, that is, by journaling. Start writing. If you want, you can make videos. Start developing alternative habits so that you don’t relapse.