12th January 2020

Technology Dopamine fast: ‘The hunger and boredom were intense’

Technology Dopamine fast: ‘The hunger and boredom were intense’


Technology Kirsty and forbidden itemsImage copyright
Getty Images/BBC

Dopamine fasting is a lifestyle trend popular in the world’s tech centre Silicon Valley which involves cutting yourself off from almost all stimulation for 24 hours.

You can’t eat or drink anything apart from water, or use the internet, your phone, your computer or TV (or any other screens or technology) during that time. You also can’t listen to music or radio, have sex or masturbate, and you are encouraged to keep reading and talking to a minimum.

Its name refers to dopamine, a chemical in our brains. Scientists don’t agree on how exactly it works but it can become activated when something good happens or we feel rewarded.

Fans of “fasting” say that we are all so overloaded by media and distractions that we constantly get dopamine “hits”, so we have become numb to them. They think that by taking a break we might become more focused and productive when we start doing these regular things again. Others, however, say it is unscientific rubbish.

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Media captionDopamine Fasts are a controversial trend from Silicon Valley

So what are you allowed to do on a dopamine fast? You can go for walks, meditate, think, and write a diary.

I tried it out from 22:00 on 16 December until 22:00 the next day – after a medical check from our BBC in-house team. You do need to see your doctor before trying anything like this.

Here’s what happened.

Technology 22:00 Monday: The Hobnobs are hidden

I’ve messaged my group chats as if I’m going away to a desert island for a month, turned off and hidden my phone.

Randomly, I seem to have Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up stuck in my head, of all songs, when I can’t stick something on to drown it out.

My preparation has involved eating loads of food as I won’t get to eat for 24 hours, and going to the pub without drinking alcohol because I didn’t want to feel hungover on top of not being able to eat. The Hobnobs have been hidden so the sight of them doesn’t upset me tomorrow.

I’m intrigued to see how I feel at the end of these 24 hours – and a little embarrassed at the fact that I feel nervous. I’m not sure that there’s anything specific I want to achieve from this: maybe some peace of mind. If I have some life-changing realisation that’s a bonus. I’ve practiced meditation and headstands, so I’ll give them a go tomorrow. Now, though, I’m going to stare at the wall for a minute, get ready for bed and go to sleep.

Technology 11:50 Tuesday: The first rumblings

It’s the next day. After a bit of a sleepless night (although I couldn’t tell you how long I was awake for because I had no way of telling the time without my phone), I have emerged from a heap under my covers and am downstairs.

I live with my parents and I’ve sat in a room away from my dad, so he can watch TV. All I can hear in this room is a ticking clock, which is already annoying. Though it’s good I can use it to tell the time now I’m awake. And each tick means I’m one second closer to being able to eat a meal. Yep, the hunger has already kicked in after 13 hours.

I’m going to have a shower and wash my hair soon, which will probably be the highlight of my day. So far, no enlightenment. Just a rumbling stomach.

Technology 13:30: Chillin’ killin’

I’ve just had a period of laying on the sofa, over-thinking. Not necessarily in a bad way, though. It’s been quite peaceful to sit and have literally nothing to do. I know that had my phone been here, I’d have spent the past hour or so getting angry at Twitter and scrolling through “Winter Wonderland with this one <3" posts on Instagram.

I feel like I’ve settled into the day


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