190: Dopamine Detox


“We get addicted to scrolling, to checking Facebook, to checking our text messages, to the point where we are actually doing nothing.”

Have you ever grabbed your phone to open an app for no reason at all? 

In this digital age, our brains are addicted to dopamine more than ever. We scroll through posts, check Facebook incessantly, and scan text messages to the point where we are actually doing nothing at all. If you’re anything like me, you struggle to focus at work ever since social media burst into our lives. My mind is always searching for that hit of dopamine, and when I give in, I’m way less productive and focused. 

Today, I want to dive into something that I’m calling “The Dopamine Experiment.” I had never done a dopamine detox before, but now I’ve done it a few times over the past couple of weeks, and I’m hooked. This experiment goes way beyond a digital detox, too! We can be addicted to dopamine through screens, sex, food, and even music! Having some extra time at home during quarantine, I knew that this could be the perfect time to try out this reset plan. 

In this episode, I share my experience with the dopamine detox and outline the three levels of the experiment. There are a few options to choose from, with varying levels of detox strictness, so you can spend some time deciding which option is best for you. I also share how the dopamine experiment has helped me regain my focus and hone my creativity. 

Now is the perfect time to curb your addiction to social media. I hope this post gives you some insight into the process and inspires you to try it out yourself! Without further ado, let’s get into it.

What Is a Dopamine Detox? 

First, what exactly is a dopamine detox? Dopamine is the “feel-good” chemical that is released in your brain all the time. We usually get dopamine hits when we scroll through social media and see that someone liked our picture. The same thing happens when we get a text notification or someone retweets us. While dopamine isn’t “bad,” and we actually can harness it to improve our creativity, it’s easy to get addicted to that rush, especially through social media. 

When we’re addicted to dopamine, we struggle to focus. If you’re anything like me, you have had so much trouble trying to focus while you work in the office. I’m like a little rabbit running around to each thing that stimulates my intention. I’ll see something interesting on social media, and then I go to research it on Google, but before I know it, I’ve completely forgotten what it was that I was going to search for. My mind is constantly searching for that hit of dopamine. 

The more we get immersed in things like social media and scrolling, the more we become addicted. The dopamine hits create a loop in your brain that becomes shorter and shorter with each hit — basically, we get so accustomed to dopamine that we’ll unconsciously seek it out to feed the loop. It’s the same concept as being addicted to cocaine. I’ve found that a dopamine addiction can be very detrimental to my productivity. I still get a lot done, but I know I could get even more done if I wasn’t addicted to dopamine.

Part of our dopamine addiction is due to the hundreds of ads we see every day. We live in an “attention economy,” and corporations everywhere are trying to get our attention through ads. There have been millions of dollars put into research on how to keep people to keep scrolling through ads — this is the same with every social media platform. People are making money off your addiction. 

So you have a choice. You can either play into it, get addicted, and lose yourself in the “scroll hole,” or you can purposefully step away. The dopamine detox is a big part of that. It’s about intentionally putting space between yourself and instant gratification. It’s hard at first, but the results are incredible. 

My Dopamine Detox Experience

Now, I want to share with you my experience of going through the dopamine detox. I picked a Saturday for my detox because there was less going on that day and fewer things I needed to pay attention to.

I woke up in the morning and shut down all of my computers. I turned my phone off and put it away in a drawer. I kept my second phone nearby only to use as a meditation timer (it doesn’t have any notifications on it). Basically, anything that would release dopamine was turned off and stowed away. 

I sat on my couch for a lot of the day, practiced meditation, and exercised. It was weird at first not to have my phone on me, and I could definitely feel the pull to check it. But with time and patience, that feeling decreased, and I began to feel okay with being totally unconnected from that dopamine loop. It was so beautiful to just sit there and think, without the constant distraction of ads and social media tugging on my brain. 

I pulled out a pad of paper, did some journaling, and ideated some different concepts for my business without having my phone or music distracting me. It was a really incredible time. Then I went to bed, and I didn’t check my phone until the next morning. 

This whole process showed me that it really is possible to live without your phone for a day (or a couple!). It also showed me that when I distance myself from that dopamine loop, I am way more creative and productive than ever before. I can’t wait to see how far I can take the detox because the results are truly incredible. 

The Three Levels of a Dopamine Detox

If you’ve never done a dopamine detox before, don’t worry — there are different levels you can start at, depending on what you need and what works for you. 

#1: Beginner Level

As a beginner, your detox is less intense but still accomplishes the same goal. You must cut out these things to limit the amount of dopamine in your system: no phone, no computer, no gaming, no porn, no masturbation, no sex, no drugs, and no stimulating food. By stimulating food, I mean foods with high sugar content, like chocolate and candy. 

Now, here are the things that you can do: You can drink coffee and tea, talk to people, read books, listen to music, journal, exercise, and eat healthy foods. Sound like something you could do? Or are you up for an even bigger challenge? 

#2: Intermediate Level 

The intermediate level is the one I did. In this level, you must cut out these things: no phone, no computer, no gaming, no porn, no masturbation, no sex, no drugs, no stimulating food, no coffee or tea, no talking to people, no reading books, and no music. 

At this level, you are allowed to journal, go on walks, exercise, and meditate. The difference between this level and the beginner level is that all human contact is basically off-limits. 

#3: Time Theorist Level

And lastly, we have the Time Theorist level. This one is a bit too aggressive for me, but if you’re up for a huge challenge, go for it. Basically, you’re not allowed anything stimulating. You can’t look at any media, you can’t exercise, you can’t see other people, you can’t journal or read, and you can’t eat stimulating foods. The only thing you can do is sit on the couch and think for the whole day. 

If you can do that, you’re a true time theorist. Maybe I’ll work up to that one day, but as of right now, the Intermediate level is what I like best. You can always customize these levels to what you need, so don’t feel like you have to stick to every single rule. Of course — don’t create too many exceptions for yourself either. The point is to recover from the dopamine addiction, and you can’t do that unless you sacrifice stimulates.  

The Three Benefits of a Dopamine Detox 

Not only does a dopamine detox release you from that tightening distraction loop, but it has other benefits as well!

#1: Improved Focus 

When you take distance away from dopamine triggers, your general focus begins to improve. You can focus on tasks a lot more effectively, and you work smarter. Keep in mind: When you do a dopamine detox, you’re not completely rewiring your brain system, but you’re showing yourself that you can go a certain amount of time without getting dopamine hits. If you have a huge project to do or have deadlines to make, consider doing a dopamine detox — you’ll be amazed at your increased focus. 

#2: Space for Contemplation

How often do we actually sit down and think about life and contemplate our existence? In this busy world, we unfortunately don’t do it enough. Especially during quarantine — there has been so much information coming at us and so much stimuli to pay attention to. From the time I’m up in the morning to the time I go to sleep, I’m pretty much staring at a screen, taking in content. 

During my detox, it was actually really amazing to cut out music and other media and just sit there and think. When you don’t have your phone or anything to take your focus, you can just sit with yourself and contemplate. A dopamine detox creates space for contemplation, and as Creative Alchemists, we need this time to focus on ourselves and the creativity we’re putting out into the world.

#3:  Elevated Vibrational State 

Lastly, a dopamine detox improves your internal vibration state. After my first detox, I had five hat orders come through to me. Why? Because I believe that through the detox, I reset my internal emotions to call in abundance. With countless distractions, our vibrational energy can get off-balance. No longer are we focusing on our creativity, but instead, we’re focusing on who liked our Instagram post. 

When we live in a higher vibrational state, we attract more things into our life. I’ve seen it happen, time and time again. When we can get out of that dopamine loop, we make space for abundance and constructive change to start happening in our lives. 

Ready to Try Your Own Dopamine Detox?

And there you have it — the benefits of a dopamine detox! Do you think you’re ready to try your own? If you’ve never done one before, I suggest starting with the Beginner level, just so that you can ease into it without challenging yourself to an extreme. And remember — you can always adjust the intensity of the detox based on what you need. 

If it’s hard for you to go without your phone for a day, I suggest giving it to a friend — that way, you won’t be tempted to take a peek at your texts. The beginning of the detox may be difficult, but a few hours in, you’ll start feeling calmer and more productive. Use the detox as a catalyst to your Creative Alchemy, and spend time contemplating your life, your future, and the world. 

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens of which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes. When we can free ourselves of a dopamine addiction, it’s considerably easier to be productive in our Creative Alchemy!

I’d love to hear about your dopamine detoxes! You can tag me on Instagram, @nickonken, with a screenshot of the episode and your thoughts! Also, if this podcast helps you realize your inner Creative Alchemist, be sure to leave me a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. That way, we can share the content with even more listeners! 

Until next time, keep on creating your life by creating every small moment!

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!



“When you’re living at a higher vibrational state, you can attract more things into your life.”

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • What a dopamine detox is [1:10]
  • What is dopamine [1:15]
  • Why we are addicted to social media [2:30]
  • What is the attention economy [3:30]
  • The three levels of a dopamine detox [7:35]
  • What counts as stimulating food [8:00]

The Three Levels of a Dopamine Detox

  1. Beginner

  2. Intermediate

  3. Time Theorist

Links Mentioned:

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