Dopamine is a chemical in the body that helps with motivation and in turn to feel good about working towards something. It’s a powerful chemical that has an important role to play in our body.
What Causes Dopamine to be Released?
Anything we do that we find pleasure in causes dopamine to be released. Something as simple as drinking when you are thirsty releases some dopamine. So does scrolling through social media, playing video games, and eating chocolate cake.
The body produces dopamine naturally and many scientists state that it is not possible to really have a major effect on dopamine levels in our body in the way that is suggested by people touting dopamine detoxes. That being said, they do agree that the actual behaviours taken during a dopamine detox like abstaining from social media and spending more time outside or meditating can be beneficial for us.
How to Set Limits and Detox from Technology
The goal here is to break the habits of spending hours on social media and technology and give ourselves the time to do other things. The following are strategies you can use whenever and for whatever duration you need rather than a set of rules to follow.
To start, look at your screen time on your phone. See what apps you use most often and how long you are online every day. You can then make better decisions about what you need to do.
Set Time Limits on Apps
Set time limits on your devices. On the iPhone, you can set time limits for individual apps after clicking on ‘Add Limit’ and then tapping on the category or you can set a limit for the entire category. If you choose an entire category, this will set the limit for all the apps in that category combined.
You’ll be given a warning when you have 5 minutes left before you hit your time limit and can choose to extend the time for 15 minutes or for the day. I try to choose 15 minutes to see how much I go over the limits I have set.
Schedule Downtime on Your Phone
Downtime is a set time when all apps, except the ones you permit, will be unavailable. It also mutes notifications. Again if you really want to use the app you can click on it and choose to ignore the limit. The idea is that it is simply a prompt to help you think about whether you really want to open the app or scroll the feed or not.
Turn On ‘Do Not Disturb’
Another thing is to turn off notifications or set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ when you are working or want to be uninterrupted. The notifications and text messages will be there when you do look at your screen but your phone won’t light up or buzz until you turn ‘do not disturb’ off.
I do this every evening or when I need to really focus on tasks without disruption and I ask my students to do it in class too.
Block Websites on Your Browser and Phone
If you use Chome for your internet browser you can also install extensions to help with time limits. Two of my favourites are Kills Newsfeed for Facebook and Work Mode. These may be available on other browsers as well. You can turn these on or off with a click and a browser refresh.
Kill Newsfeed hides the newsfeed but allows you to log in and still use Facebook so you can access what you need without the distraction of the newsfeed.
Work mode will actually close the browser tab if you try to open any social media. You can also add additional sites if you know you are prone to spending too long on certain sites.
On your phone, install the app called BlockSite. You can block specific websites so that you can still use your internet browser but can avoid sites you may find distracting.
Install a Productivity App
If you want to block yourself from using the phone for a period of time, but aren’t keen to turn it off or put it in a different room to avoid the temptation, use a productivity app like the Forest App. You earn coins for avoiding your phone and redeem those to plant trees around the world.
Set Limits on Your Game Consoles
Some consoles allow you to set timers on them. Though this may interfere with game play, so just be aware of that and you may want to instead set a timer instead.
PVR Your Shows and Turn Off Auto-Play
If you can, record your shows or movies you want to watch from TV. This gives you control over when you watch them and you can also pause them and take a break if you need to.
On Netflix or other streaming sites, turn off the auto-play feature so you don’t absentmindedly watch 3 episodes off a show before you realize what just happened.
Mute, Unfollow, and Block
Sometimes, we end up spending hours on social media simply because we’re trying to search through the clutter. If you need a break from a specific account go ahead and mute them. I do this often to keep my feeds showing me only what I want to see. I’m still following them and can manually click on their profile, but I am not seeing their stories or their posts in my feeds. On Instagram, you can mute one or both of these.
You can also choose to unfollow or block accounts if the person becomes antagonistic or no longer aligns with what you stand for. You don’t owe anyone your time or space on social media and it’s ok to stand up and make the right choice for yourself.
Have a Choice Board
In school we often use choice boards for students to allow them to choose which assignments to complete from a specific number of options. Sometimes they have to pick one from each column or they may be able to select whichever ones they want to do.
The idea here is you can set up a board or list of activities you enjoy and when you complete a task that you may not really want to do, you can reward yourself by choosing something you do want to do or that you enjoy more.
By writing down what you enjoy you can get a better idea of your own interests and who you are as a person. Make sure the board is able to be modified though since you may discover new things you like to do and you can add those to your board. See how it changes over time.
You could set time limits too such as spending one hour on a task you are not keen on and then moving on to spend 20 minutes doing something you do enjoy.
Kill the Wifi
If you really get desperate for some downtime, turn off the wifi in your home. You can usually do this through the internet provider apps or website and you can choose which devices to disconnect. As a last resort, you can always unplug the modem.
As you can see there are ways to reduce your time limits on various forms of technology. Find what works for you. The goal is to feel more balanced and relaxed, not to feel disconnected.
Know that when you begin to disconnect it will allow you to become more in tune with yourself. This can be a bit overwhelming for some people who preoccupy themselves with their outside world. It can also be fascinating to really connect with yourself and spend time in your own head to hear your own thoughts clearly. It is important to address the inside world too though and if you do find you need support, ask for it.
Whatever you choose to do, spending some time offline will give you time to really get to know yourself.
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