GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's the newest health trend that promises to give your brain a break and all you have to do is give up everything you love to do.
Sound fun? Probably not, but it could be the best way to a healthier life.
Dopamine fasting is quickly becoming a popular way to unplug because let's face it, we're over stimulated and we love it!
"Dopamine is going to play a part in motivating us to want to do those types of things. Dopamine is a very dynamic neurotransmitter in the brain." Dr. Michael Wolff is a Grand Rapids neuropsychologist, "All of us have our addictive potentials."
But over stimulation can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, stress and even heart disease.
"Dopamine is always wanting to be in balance." Wolff says when we produce too much dopamine through over-stimulation it ends up in the pleasure area of your brain where it can feel too good to leave. The idea of dopamine fasting is that it balances the brain.
"I actually really love it. Your mind is very, very busy at the beginning and then it just sort of calms down at the end." Carol Hendershot is a self proclaimed dopamine junkie. She's been dopamine fasting for 15 years. "These practices have just changed my life entirely."
As co-founder for Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness, she takes her dopamine fasts seriously with a yearly week-long silent retreat at Spirit Rock in California. "We don't make eye contact with other people and we alternate sitting and walking meditation." The fast also includes seven hours of meditation a day and a vegetarian diet.
At the end of her first fast Carol said she experienced something profound. "I was just standing down at the bottom of the hill and for the first time in my life I actually felt like I was enough."
Carol's experience might seem extreme but dopamine fasting doesn't have to be.
You can simplify a dopamine fast. Here are some tips for beginners The Improvement Pill.
Spend one day a month on a dopamine fast.
THINGS YOU CAN'T DO
- no food
- no phone
- no internet
- no music
- no substances
- no conversations
- no masturbating
- no videos
- no reading
What will you do with all that time? Well that's kind of the point. You'll be forced to spend it alone with yourself.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
- walk in nature
- drink lots of water
If a whole day still seems too much start with just one hour a day.
Carol says, "eventually if you don't reinforce it calms down and you can start to make better choices." She also adds that you should have a daily meditation practice established before you attempt a silent retreat. And be prepared for the voices in your head to be loud and strong for the first day or so, but that's just a sign that all the toxic thoughts are leaving your brain. You can listen to her entire fasting experience here.
MY WEST MICHIGAN
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