How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)

updated 20 Mar 2023

How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)

Why are some things harder to do than others. Why is it harder to work on side projects than scroll through social media? The answer is a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Every single activity we is associated with a dopamine release, and it is our whatever our expected dopamine release that will determine the likelihood of us doing that activity.

The Dopamine Experiment

Rats were given an implant in their brain that would release a random amount dopamine when they moved a lever. The rats in the experiment endlessly moved the lever back and forth until they couldn't any longer...They were un able to eat or sleep in the presence of the lever.

Dopamine in our life today

Things like social media, eating tasty foods, drinking alcohol, doing drugs or pornography, release high amounts of dopamine for low amounts of effort. Things like working out of doing work release low amounts of dopamine after effort. That is why it is harder to do hard things. We expect less dopamine from the effort. We are addicted to the easy dopamine.

We can do things to train our brain to get dopamine from hard things by taking breaks from dopamine, with a dopamine detox. We have to pick particular things like certain foods, websites, apps that release high amounts of dopamine for low effort for certain amount of time. We could even take a day where we try and be bored for a day. This will reset our dopamine levels.

Once our dopamine levels are reset, you can do low dopamine activities such as journaling, reading, cleaning up, exercising. Then at the end of the day, we can reward ourselves with a high dopamine activity such as eating something tasty or going on youtube, but only after the low dopamine work is done.

The most important thing we can do is understanding what our high dopamine activities that we enjoy, and limiting how we indulge in those activities, vs the low dopamine activities we need to incorporate into our lives in order to get the things we want in life, such as exercise and hard work at a career or personal project.