WTF is a dopamine detox, and could it actually make you happier?

It’s time to stop bogging yourself down with an endless stream of content because it could make you happier in the long run.

We have all been there – scrolling through TikTok until the early hours whilst letting out a small giggle at a slew of videos on your feed. We watch 30-second re-runs of our favourite reality TV, comedy movies, interviews, and day-in-the-life videos of content creators. It makes us happy, right? Wrong. This quick dopamine reward is merely a facade when it comes to your long-term happiness, and TikTok is reversing its toxic output with a new well-being trend, aptly titled “dopamine detox”.

“Dopamine detox” is going viral for telling users to take a quick break from social media, with video games, films, TV series, and music all included. If you take a step back, indulging in these media forms can leave us feeling exhausted and overstimulated, with research affirming that the correlation between being permanently on your phone and your own mental well-being is massive. The premise behind the detox is that the joy we get from social media attaches itself to the reward centre of the brain, which activates dopamine – the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. This floods the brain with a wholehearted hit and makes us want to seek it out more and more so we feel this way at the click of a button (literally). We are then stuck having to find this hit of pleasure until it consumes our lives, and we struggle to find a quick solution elsewhere.

Surprisingly, Gen Zers are actually keen on the idea of breaking away from the social media cycle and have latched onto the dopamine detox rather enthusiastically. But this isn’t the first time the detox has hit the masses, and in 2019 dopamine fasting became a popular wellness trend for busy professionals, according to the New York Times. However, this also included abstaining from reading, eating food, and having sex – a real bummer. But this time around, 2023 dopamine detoxers aren’t going quite as extreme, and are taking the trend with a more realistic approach by introducing smartphone abstinence in short cycles. 

#Dopaminedetox has garnered nearly 72 million views on TikTok, and the following is only growing. It resembles a structured version of “taking a break from social media”, but is a bit more scientific and regimented. Despite a handful of sceptics, various users sharing their experiences are saying that it does work, and they have left their detox feeling more fulfilled and stimulated. Some are even saying that their need to use social media as a coping mechanism has forced them to confront their emotions and detangle their thoughts, which contributes to a better sense of self and happiness in the end. 

WriterElla Chadwick
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