How A 'Dopamine Detox' Can Help You Break Your Worst Habits

If you've noticed that some of your quick-fix pleasure habits — TikTok scrolling, gaming apps, or online shopping — are getting in the way of your productivity and ability to be present for loved ones in your life, it may be time for a dopamine detox. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a part in how we experience pleasure and reward. The chemical is released when we do something that makes us feel good, like eating our favorite meal, opening a package we ordered, or seeing those likes roll in on social media. It also helps us stay motivated and think. But sometimes, we can form an unhealthy and imbalanced dependency on these habits that release dopamine which ultimately leads us to an unfulfilling lifestyle.


You may have heard of low dopamine morning routines where you delay picking up your phone for the first hour you're awake and instead engage in some easy, healthy habits — drinking water, stepping outside in the sunlight, eating protein, and maybe tidying up a room. The idea is that delaying those fast-hitting dopamine hits from scrolling on social media will allow you to continue to make healthier choices throughout the day — and this is essentially what a dopamine detox is achieving too. Let's take a look at the ways you can engage in a dopamine detox to break your worst habits.

Set a designated time for your most pleasurable habits

One way to initiate a dopamine detox is not to necessarily go cold turkey on gaming or romance novels or whatever it is that you find yourself reaching for to get a quick boost, but to allow yourself those pleasures during a set window of time. Perhaps it's after you've finished your duties for the day and have eaten dinner or maybe you plan to give yourself twenty minutes of guilt-free TikTok scrolling during your lunch break — and then it's hands-off for the rest of the work hours.


Practicing this delayed gratification will lead to a better sense of overall wellness and help keep your productivity levels up throughout the day. It can be tough and will take a little bit of retraining when it comes to the automatic impulses we may have gotten too used to. Knowing you will get what it is you're craving eventually, you just have to finish the laundry or complete a work project first, will lead to the sense of accomplishment we're after.

Engage in low dopamine mornings

You've likely heard about the importance of a healthy morning routine more than a time or two — it's certainly been cycling through the wellness communities lately and for good reason. The intention behind a low dopamine morning routine is to slow down, minimize stress, and steer your day in the direction of positive productivity. Staying off your phone for the first hour after you've woken up — as tricky as it might be — is key for easing into the morning. Try keeping it on airplane mode until it's time to dive into the notifications and scrolling.


Walking the dog, stretching, making your bed, meditating – any of these slower, gentle habits should be done first to put you on a trajectory for a balanced day. Of course, this can be easier said than done if you have kids to get to school or a lengthy drive to work, but waking up just a little bit early to engage in a low dopamine morning will be well worth it.

Your dopamine detox could be weekly or monthly instead

Another route to a dopamine detox is to designate a day each week or a set week each month where you totally disengage from the unhealthy habits that are keeping you distracted. So, perhaps Sundays become screen-free days and you dedicate the time to other hobbies, outdoor activities, or family bonding. Even if you aren't sure what to do with the freed-up time at first — and chances are high it'll be a bit uncomfortable to shift routines — healthier habits will emerge. Maybe you'll remember your love of making art or finally organize the pantry that's been begging for attention.


You could also opt to start your detox slowly and dedicate the first day of each month to your detox. Whatever route seems the most doable and realistic in terms of keeping it up long-term is what you should aim for. You are training your brain to seek healthier activities and slowly refrain from the old impulse to engage in the less supportive ones.

Meditation and cold showers can up your dopamine in a healthy way

If you're looking for some alternative dopamine-upping habits, both meditation and cold showers are excellent sources. According to Healthline, an hour of meditation can boost dopamine levels by 65% — which is wildly impressive, and even if a full hour of meditation is a stretch for you, just twenty minutes will still put you on the right path. Ideally, starting the morning with a meditation session to direct your intention for the day is best.


Cold water exposure — another popular wellness trend as of late — has also been shown to increase dopamine concentrations by, wait for it, a mindblowing 250%. So, if you weren't already curious about the benefits of the cold shower trend, now might be the time to give it a whirl. "Dopamine boosts our mental state at the moment, and it also helps with mental acuity and alertness throughout the day," Mathew Welch, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City told Everyday Health.