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Dopamine Detox and the Beauty of Boredom

Dopamine Detox and the Beauty of Boredom

The angry guy standing in the doorway was well over six feet and 200 pounds. Even then, he looked ridiculous with the over-sized head phones.

Looking down at us, he snapped at his mother, a short woman who was standing in front of me. He seemed upset that she had interrupted something very important. Like some kind of on-line video game. Or whatever.

Either way, this personal training contract for junior was not going to work out. At least, not without some serious parameters like: 1. No mouthing off your mother: and 2. Disconnect yourself from the internet for an hour a day.

Getting an over-sized, hostile, recluse physically fit was more like a job for a psychologist or maybe an army boot camp and not a personal trainer, with an old school mentality.

Yet, this guy was typical of the pathetic path that too many young men have taken. They pass their days, plugged into the internet, eating junk food and avoiding the outside world.

How does that work anyway? What is it that makes a male want to stare at a computer screen and miss out on life? No job, no real hobbies, no adventure. No girls?

Later, it dawned on me that it was not so much of being demasculinized, a lack of testosterone or societal pressures. But, rather it was this overload of dopamine.

Dopamine is the happy hormone that makes you feel good. It is a neurotransmitter that passes signals along nerve cells. It can give that high from sports, competition, long distance running, excitement, good emotions and sense of accomplishments. It plays an important role in reward type of motivation.

Too much dopamine will often drive an organism to the point of fatigue. Not enough dopamine and the organism falls into a state of apathy.

It is these continuous small doses of dopamine that are addictive and unproductive. This latest plug-in drug, called internet games, gives the user small, continual hits of dopamine. It becomes an addiction that, nowadays is starting to rank alongside alcoholism and gambling.

But, you also see it everywhere in other behaviour. People cannot take a simple walk or workout at the gym without being plugged into music or watching a television screen. Or they cannot resist sending one more text or hitting a like button during a business meeting or a dinner date.

This is where the dopamine detox comes in. The “drying out” period where a person can stop getting the small hits of dopamine pleasure.

This is where you let your mind reset itself and start calling the shots again. That might mean a quiet weekend, a five hour hike or what Tim Ferriss calls an information fast. (That is take in the bare minimum of information for a week. No facebook, tweets, newspapers or television.) The latter works if you give it an honest try.

The other method is like skipping the minnows and going for the big fish. That means taking the preparation to do something significant, like training hard for a competition, waiting in a long line up for a real quality concert or preparing a really fancy meal or dinner date for someone you really want to impress. Going for the big fish takes a little imagination or effort rather than wallowing in the shallow pools of mediocrity.

I recall that it was those long, often boring, physically demanding days of physical and military training, studying and work that made food taste better, sleep go deeper and any free time seem like a holiday.

Just compare the average (not all) office worker who snacks all day and watches television most of the evening. Without some hobbies, it is a pretty oh-hum existence. Now, watch young construction workers on a payday, soldiers finishing training or university students passing final exams. They have just escaped from weeks, if not months of long, hard, often boring physical and/or mental work. To most of them, the shear excitement of cold beer, reuniting with friends and family or free time is a dopamine high in itself.

Try missing meals and working hard all day and then sit down to a plain meal. It will taste like a gourmet dinner. Or train like you are going into competition. You might wonder where you got the energy.

It is these intense periods of contrasts that make living more exciting.

So do your own Dopamine Detox.

Also, learn about programming your mind to exercise when you do not feel like it in Flat Gut After 50.

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