TikTok's Low Dopamine Morning Routine May Be Onto Something. Here's What To Know

Morning routine content has been a thing for a while — there are the super aesthetic YouTube videos, those viral "that girl" routines, and the healthy morning tips from Instagram life coaches. But a new kind of morning routine is making the rounds on TikTok, and it's all about hacking how your brain works: the low dopamine morning.

A low dopamine morning is, just how it sounds, a morning where you limit stimuli and behaviors that trigger dopamine, a chemical in the body that promotes pleasure and motivation. To keep dopamine from spiking, some TikTokers suggest avoiding checking your phone and consuming caffeine for at least 20 to 60 minutes after waking up.

One TikToker user named Meredith calls a low dopamine morning routine the "most important act of self-care that I do for myself every day." Her version includes waiting at least one hour before scrolling through her phone and postponing drinking coffee until she's been awake for 90 minutes. In place of those habits, she opts for a healthy, high-protein breakfast. Content creator and life coach Jess Attridge skips checking her phone and spends time journaling and doing breathwork instead. These swaps sound simple enough, but do they offer any real benefits? Here's what the proponents and experts say.

A low dopamine morning might pay off later

If dopamine helps us seek pleasure and motivates us to take action, why would anyone want to lower it first thing in the morning? As Dr. Susan Lovelle, a holistic wellness specialist, told Woman & Home, the dopamine triggered by checking social media, for instance, can offer a burst of energy and fuel to start the day. But these feel-good effects don't last. "[T]he same activities that cause dopamine elevation are also likely increasing cortisol, the stress hormone that helps us to wake up each morning. Unfortunately, with continued stress, elevated dopamine and cortisol levels may begin to have dampened responses, requiring more for the same response." Put another way, you might become addicted to a.m. doomscrolling or sugary doughnuts at breakfast. And Dr. Lovelle explained that this dopamine cycle can impact your behavior later in the day too — once dopamine dips, you'll be back to compulsively checking your phone or downing another cup of coffee to survive your afternoon slump. Without these mood boosters, you may feel fatigued or irritable.

Plus, turning your attention to slower, more thoughtful activities in the morning may offer other benefits. Mindfulness, specifically (which can take the form of meditating or going for a walk, for example), has been scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health, per Healthline.

The morning routine trend is ideal for people with ADHD

If you peruse TikTok, you'll find many users connecting low dopamine mornings with ADHD, and for good reason. According to a 2008 study published in "Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment," the "dopamine system" doesn't work efficiently in people with ADHD, making them at higher risk of using illicit drugs and partaking in other potentially harmful activities. A low dopamine morning routine could, in theory, break the dopamine-chasing pattern people with ADHD often struggle with.

The TikTok trend may also help improve concentration, something that doesn't come easily for many people with ADHD. By limiting early-morning stimulation, "we can maintain our dopamine sensitivity, allowing for better focus and sustained attention throughout the day," Dr. Susan Lovelle shared with Woman & Home. Low dopamine mornings can also be a way to practice overcoming distractions. Eleri Roberts, an ADHD coach for women, says in a video caption, "A low-dopamine morning routine is FANTASTIC for people with ADHD to help take control of your day and where your attention goes. No phone or electronics for 20 minutes means YOU get to choose where your attention goes."

And FYI, even if you don't have ADHD, a low dopamine morning may help you start your day off right. The routine has also taken off among TikTokers with seasonal affective disorder, such as Jandra Sutton, and anxiety, such as Ash.