How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)


You probably don’t have a problem playing
video games or browsing social media on your phone. In fact I have no doubt you could sit in front
of a screen and do both of those activities for 2 hours, or even longer without breaking
your concentration. But what about half an hour of studying? Oof. That might be too hard. How about working on your side business for
another hour? Hmm. Doesn’t sound too appealing. Even though you logically know that studying,
exercising, building a business or something equally productive, will bring you more benefits
in the long run, you still prefer watching TV, playing video games and scrolling through
social media. One might argue that it’s obvious why. One activity is easy and doesn’t require much
effort, while the other activity is difficult and it requires you to apply yourself. But some people seem to have no problem studying,
exercising, or working on their side projects, regularly. Which begs the question: Why are some people
more motivated to tackle difficult things? And is there a way to make doing difficult
things, easy? To answer this question, we need to look at
this brain neurotransmitter: Dopamine. Dopamine is often considered a pleasure molecule. But that’s not quite what it does. Dopamine is what makes us desire things. And it’s that desire that gives us the motivation
to get up and do stuff. If you’re not sure how powerful dopamine is,
let me introduce you to a few experiments neuroscientists did on rats. The researchers implanted electrodes in the
brains of rats. Whenever the rat pulled a lever, the researchers
stimulated the rat’s reward system in the brain. The result was that the rats developed a craving
so strong they kept pulling the lever, over and over for hours. The rats would refuse to eat or even sleep. They would just keep pressing the lever until
they would drop from exhaustion. But then the process was reversed. The researchers blocked the release of dopamine
in the brain’s reward center. As a result, rats became so lethargic that
even getting up to get a drink of water was not worth the effort. They wouldn’t eat. They didn’t want to mate. They didn’t crave anything at all. You could say that the rats lost all will
to live. However, if food was placed directly in their
mouths, the rats would still eat and enjoy the food. They just didn’t have the motivation to get
up and do it themselves. You would think that it’s thirst or hunger
that motivates us to get food or water. But there’s also dopamine that plays a key
role here. Those rat experiments might be extreme cases. But you can see similar effects dopamine has
in humans and in our daily lives. In fact, your brain develops priorities in
large part based on how much dopamine it’s expecting to get. If an activity releases too little dopamine,
you won’t have much motivation to do it. But if an activity releases a lot of dopamine,
you’ll be motivated to repeat it, over and over. So which behaviors release dopamine? Any activity where you anticipate there’s
a potential reward, releases it. But if you know there are no immediate rewards
with the behavior, your brain won’t release it. For example, before you eat comfort food,
your brain releases dopamine, because you anticipate that the food will make you feel
good. Even if it actually makes you feel worse. That’s because your brain doesn’t even care
if the high dopamine activity is damaging to you. It just wants more of it. A stereotypical example would be someone who’s
a drug addict. He knows that what he’s doing is not good
for him. But all he wants is to get more of that drug. Besides getting you high, cocaine and heroin
release unnatural amounts of dopamine, which in turn makes you crave them even more. Of course it has to be noted that nearly everything
releases some amount of dopamine. Even drinking water when you’re thirsty, does. But the highest dopamine release happens when
you get a reward randomly. One such example is playing on a slot machine
in a casino. Even if you’ve only been losing money until
that point, you eventually expect to get a bigger reward. You just don’t know when it could happen. And
in today’s digital society, we are flooding our brains with unnaturally high amounts of
dopamine on a daily basis, even if we don’t know it. Some examples of high dopamine behaviors include:
scrolling through social media websites, playing video games, watching internet pornography,
etc. We anticipate some sort of reward with each
one of those behaviors. That’s why we’re constantly checking our phones. We expect to see a text message or some other
notification. And we know that eventually we’re going to
receive it. We’re becoming like those rats pulling the
lever, tying to get a new dopamine hit. And you might think, “Oh so what?” “It’s not like it’s harming me in any way.” But you’d be wrong. Our bodies have a biological system called
homeostasis. It means that our body likes to keep internal
physical and chemical conditions at a balanced level. Whenever an imbalance occurs, our body adapts
to it. Let me give you an example: When it’s cold
outside, our body temperature falls. And as a result, we start shivering to generate
heat and warm the body. However when it’s hot outside, our body temperature
rises. And we start sweating to lose some of that
heat. Essentially our body is looking to maintain
a temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius or 98 degrees Fehrenheit, no matter what. But there is another way homeostasis manifests
itself. And that is through tolerance. For example, someone who rarely drinks alcohol,
will get drunk really fast. But someone who drinks on a regular basis,
will have to drink more alcohol, because their body has developed a tolerance to it. Essentially it takes more and more alcohol
to make them drunk, because they’ve become less sensitive to its effects. And it’s not much different with dopamine. Your body tries to maintain homeostasis, so
it down-regulates your dopamine receptors. Essentially your brain gets used to having
high levels of dopamine and those levels become your new normal. Thus you develop a dopamine tolerance. This can be a huge problem, because the things
that don’t give you as much dopamine, don’t interest you any longer. And it’s much more difficult to motivate yourself
to do them. They feel boring and less fun, because they
don’t release as much dopamine, compared to the things that do release it in high amounts. That’s why people tend to prefer playing video
games or browsing the internet, compared to studying or working on their business. Video games make us feel good and comfortable,
as they release a lot of dopamine. Sadly things like working hard or reading,
releases it in lower amounts. This is one of the reasons why drug addicts who
try to quit, have a hard time adjusting to a normal life. Their dopamine tolerance gets so high that
normal life isn’t able to match it. They become like those rats from previous
experiments who have no motivation to do anything if there’s not enough dopamine release. And it’s not just drug addicts. People who are addicted to video games, social
media or internet pornography experience the same thing. Once their dopamine tolerance gets too high,
they simply aren’t able to enjoy low dopamine behaviors. Which begs the question: Is there anything
that can be done to prevent this? The answer is you need to perform a dopamine
detox. By now might already have an idea what dopamine
detox is going to look like. What you’re going to do is set aside a day,
where you’re going to avoid all the highly stimulating activities. You’re going to stop flooding your brain with
high amounts of dopamine and you’re going to let your dopamine receptors recover. Just a disclaimer: If you’re suffering from
a drug addiction, then I suggest you seek professional help, as you’ve probably formed
a physiological and psychological dependence. And I don’t want you to experience any extreme
withdrawal symptoms. Now back to the detox. For 1 whole day you will try to have as little
fun as possible. You won’t be using the internet, or any technology
like your phone or computer. You’re not allowed to listen to music, you’re
not allowed to masturbate or eat any junk food. Basically you’re going to remove all sources
of external pleasure for the entire day. You’re going to embrace boredom. And trust me, there will be a lot of boredom. You are however allowed to do the following:
Go for a walk. Meditate and be alone with your thoughts. Reflect on your life and goals. Write down any ideas you get. Not on your computer or phone, but on a physical
piece of paper. All of this might seem quite intense. But if you want radical results and you want
them fast, you need to be able to take radical action. Now you might be asking yourself: Why would
this even work? You can think of it this way. Let’s say that you’ve been eating every single
meal at the best restaurant in your town. As a result, what happened is that those fancy
meals became your new normal. If someone offered you a bowl of plain rice,
you would probably refuse. It simply wouldn’t taste as good as your usual
restaurant meal. But if you suddenly find yourself stranded
on a deserted island and you’re starving, suddenly that bowl of plain rice doesn’t seem
so bad. And that is what the dopamine detox does. It starves you of all the pleasure you usually
get, and in turn, it makes those less satisfying activities more desirable. To put it simply: Dopamine detox works because
you become so bored, that boring stuff becomes more fun. Now if you don’t want to take such extreme
action and starve yourself of all the pleasure, you can perform a smaller dopamine detox. You’re going to pick one day of the week,
where you’re going to refrain from one of your high dopamine behaviors completely. Whatever that behavior might be. Maybe checking your phone all the time, playing
video games on your computer, binge watching TV, eating junk food, watching internet pornography,
whatever. And from now on, every single week for one
whole day, you’re going to avoid that activity. You can still do other things, but the behavior
you pick is off limits. Yes, you will feel slightly bored, but that’s
the point. You want to let your dopamine receptors recover
from the unnaturally high dopamine that’s been flooding your brain. And boredom is going to propel you to do other
things that day. Things that you would normally put off, because
they don’t release as much dopamine. And because you’re bored, it’s easier for
you to do them. Of course avoiding high dopamine behavior
once in a while is good. But ideally you should avoid those behaviors
altogether, or at least as much as possible. Instead you want to connect more dopamine
to the things that will actually benefit you. And what I found is that your current high
dopamine activities, can serve as an incentive to pursue things, that actually give you those
long term benefits. In other words, you could use your high dopamine
activity, as a reward for completing difficult work. And this is exactly what I do myself. I track all the difficult, low dopamine work
I do. Cleaning my apartment, practicing the piano,
reading books, doing some sort of exercise, creating these videos, etc. After I’m able to get a certain amount of
work done, I reward myself with some amount of high dopamine activity at the end of the
day. The key words here are: after, and, at the
end of the day. If I indulge in high dopamine behavior first,
then I’m not going to feel like doing the low dopamine work. I’m simply not going to be motivated enough. So I always start with the difficult things,
only then I allow myself to indulge in high dopamine activities. To give you an example: For every completed
hour of low dopamine work, I reward myself with 15 minutes of high dopamine behavior
at the end of the day. That means that for 8 hours of low dopamine,
I allow myself roughly 2 hours of high dopamine behavior. Of course, these are my ratios. You can tweak them to your liking. Also it has to be noted that if you’re addicted
to something that’s damaging to your health, then you don’t want to treat that behavior
as a reward. Instead find a different reward, that’s not
as damaging. One that you still think is worth the effort. And if you’re wondering what my guilty pleasure
is, it’s the Internet. I can easily get lost there for hours without
doing anything else. That’s why I have this system. It’s so I’m able to control my addiction. But make no mistake, even with this system,
I still plan days where I abstain from high dopamine activities completely. To conclude this video I want to say that
it is possible to make doing difficult things, feel easier. But when your brain is getting so much dopamine
all the time, you won’t be as excited about working on something that doesn’t release
much of it. That’s why you might want to limit your phone
and computer usage, along with other high dopamine releasing behavior. And I can tell you that it’s definitely worth
it. So if you have motivation problems, start
dopamine detoxing your brain as soon as possible. Separate yourself from the unnaturally high
amounts of dopamine, or at least expose yourself to it far less frequently. Only then will normal, every day, low dopamine
activities, become exciting again and you’ll be able to do them for longer. We are all dopamine addicts to a certain extent. And that’s a good thing, because dopamine
motivates us to achieve our goals and improve ourselves. But it’s up to you to decide where you’re
going to get your dopamine from. Are you going to get it from things that don’t
benefit you? Or are you going to get it from working on
your long term goals? The choice is yours. If you enjoyed this video, I would really
appreciate if you would gently tap the like button. It helps out my channel a lot, as the almighty
Youtube algorithm sees that people like these kinds of videos and it shows my content to
a bigger crowd. This allows more people to start improving
their lives. As always, thanks for watching, and I hope
this video made you better than yesterday.

100 thoughts on “How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things (dopamine detox)

  1. Honestly I go to work everyday because only then I indulge myself with an excellent lunch. It has gotten so bad that sometimes I go to work early so I can get to eat early. I haven’t called out sick nor being late to work in almost 22 years. When I’m off work I’m anxious to get back to work not because I’m a workaholic but because I do miss my lunch.

  2. Hahaha, interesting but also funny concept,

    How to not be bored of doing something? Bore yourself to death intentionally. Tada.

  3. I wouldn't call them "hard things". Playing videogames tend to require far more skill than doing taxes, and still we prefer videogames.
    Also easy and repetitive works are very easy to do but they are painfully boring if we compare them with works that require actual effort or to think hardly.

  4. Damn, i wish your accent wouldn't be so eastern european. I do like you vids enough though to stay and listen despite of that 🙂

  5. My running, piano, rock climbing and writing allows me to experience dopamine. A dopamine detox would be walking my dog. I am sure that he would thank me if I had a dopamine detox. 😂

  6. Does working for all the day long and gaming for 2-3 hours in night a prob?? Maybe not after this video. That's satisfying..!!😁

  7. Ironically, I hade to indulge in high dopamine activity of watching YouTube video to know that I should not watch YouTube video to avoid overdose of dopamine

  8. Skip to @7:30 if you want to hear the solution but it's basically going cold turkey (with a disclaimer to consult a doctor first if you're on drugs).

  9. Gonna try this. What about listening to music? I do it frequently and Im sure it makes me segregate huge amounts of dopamine, so i guess i'll have to stop listening to it?

  10. This video simultaneously explains a whole lot of things. I used to be a game addict. Then I forced myself out of it and started studying. But often I find myself not motivated enough to study. Like it feels really hard to get the pen, books and other things and just get started. It makes sense that my brain is simply not used to this yet. I'm starting dopamine detox as soon as possible.
    One question tho, I use khan academy to study which requires internet connection to access. Am I allowed to use internet only for accessing khan academy on detoxing days?

  11. If i do boring stuff after work i will have zero motivation to be productive the next day at work. Because doing boring stuff is actually depressing for me

  12. This video was outstanding and genius. I did realize my dopamine addictions and he mentioned some on the video. I will start implementing this today. Thanks for making this video!

  13. Why does playing the piano count to low dopamine activities whereas playing video games counts to high dopamine activities? Aren't both just hobbies? And both can be challenging and you can gain skill. If you are a good piano player it is usually respected more than if you are a good player at ego shooters, but I wonder what the rational reason is.

  14. This is also the reason why you hear a lot of people say that everything was more fun as a child and that the simplest things brought you pleasure that is unattainable now as an adult. It’s because as a child your dopamine levels are so low since most of us didn’t have access to unlimited internet, phones and high dopamine activities as a child so when we did them our brains were so sensitive towards it.

  15. Instead of partying through the weekend, do what people have done for millenia: Take the sunday and practice abstenence from all worldly pleasures. Do a dopamine detox.

  16. Do we need to be in Himalayas 🙉🙊🙊
    Can 7billion populations become president of the earth ; is their other futuristic way to do by creating their virtual world n make it work for all mankinds dream come true… 🙊🙉🙈

  17. For example, if you like to play video games you'll enjoy it so much more, is like when you eat after working out all morning, food taste better.

  18. Discipline, routine and self awareness. It takes time to work your way into new habits. In my own life, I had to learn discipline in the areas I was lacking and work at them daily. Let go of rewards and expectations would be my suggestion. The mind is very powerful and so are words. We get fixated on the outcome. Know the outcome is unknown and accept it. This will allow you to not get in the way of yourself. Great video!

  19. Has anyone ever analysed water in public drinking supplies to see if there are any dopamine or mood altering substances in the supply?

  20. just watching and trying to understand this video for me is already a big challenge, because I am learning English on my own and without a doubt this is the biggest challenge of my life, I live in Brazil and I am in this challenge for just over 1 year.

  21. I noticed that when I stopped playing video games for two weeks I could literally sit there for hours reading researching but then I started playing them again and now I can’t even sit for 30 minutes.

  22. I previously did this for 40days. Now I'm about to undergo a tough training. I suppose I have to undergo this once again in order to stay fit and thrive during this training. All the best yo

  23. I do enjoy this video. You don't even know how helpful it is to me. The video is on scientific perspectives and absolutely persuades me. Thank you!

  24. For anyone considering dopamine detox, I'd recommend approaching this slowly. If you try and get rid of all dopamine inducing activities together at once, your temptations will most likely get the best of you, speaking from multiple experiences of trying this out.

    From my experience, what works is if you try and cut out one thing per week and replace that thing with a substitute. So say you want to stop using social media. Cut it out and challenge yourself to do it for just one week, and replace social media browsing time with reading (or something similar). Once that week passes, checking social media would only be an afterthought.

    If you feel like wanking, replace that with like 15 pushups. Do it for a week and it gets really easy. This was the hardest to do, but boy does it make a hell of a difference. Also make sure you eat healthy, and avoid Pizza at all costs. If you feel lethargic because of the food you eat, none of this will work.

    Also like he says, reward yourself for doing this, but only once in a while, definitely not 2 hours for a day of productivity, seems a bit excessive. Of reward yourself with 2 hours of exercise, which is what I do.

  25. In the long run? Nothing brings you benefits because you're dead.

    I think I'm programmed weird. I love starting new things not because it's easy but because it's hard. Then I learn everything I need to know to do the thing… and lose interest.

  26. Great content man, I've heard about dopamine in this situations before, but that was a great coverage with adequate measures to better deal with it. I will try this Dopamine detox myself!

  27. Get a job with repetitive work and no phones, internet, smoking, coffee, eating allowed (except break time, of course). Detox guaranteed all day.

  28. Interesting topic. I think the real 'key' is missing. It's just behind the corner, out of sight. It's that thought that makes a person willing to go here. To go to the place without dopamine.
    That is the whole shebang. This decision somehow somewhere in the body mind that it wants something different, once it's there, it will always find a way that works.
    Otherwise you work on the surface, the level where people relapse. The crazy much effort level,… That sometimes work, but most of the time not for 90% of people.
    But despite all ods, we've got it in us to get that insightful moment, where something in us, may we be aware or not, decides to change. And that is the real magical deal. How to re-create this? I don't know, but be curious about this proces, maybe that is the clue 😉

  29. I've been practicing some sort of stoic routines like restricting social-media, video games, music and etc for several months, which shocked me with huge positive impact on my life. Those simple restriction lead me to more self-discipline and less depression. I was searching for a scientific answer and I saw this video by chance and BAM!!
    it's quite interesting that most of ancient school of thoughts like Roman stoicism, Buddhism , Persian sufism have similar rules to restrict and even forbid high dopamine activities.

  30. Just smile at things that are difficult. Smiling releases dopamine and it’ll make you feel great going through the pain 👍

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