Taking a break from screens? Do it for your mental well-being

The word fasting does not only refer to not eating. Its Latin root eiunum means emptiness in general, absence. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to talk about “dopamine fast” to hint at the deprivation of some daily pleasures and therefore the reduction of the production of the hormone that gives happiness.

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As reported by media such as La Vanguardia de España, this practice – which has become popular in the last two years – would appear in Silicon Valley, the area of ​​California (USA) where large companies and companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook gather.

Thus, dopamine fasting consists of abstaining from everyday pleasures associated with technological devices: using mobile phones, spending time with video games, checking e-mails on computers, etc. “This species “tech detox” It started among executives of large technological multinationals who wanted to break away from the screens for a moment,” confirms Jorge Mario Rubio, psychologist (@sporti.saludmental) and professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the University of Antioquia, “so the stimulation in the reward and pleasure centers located in the brain is reduced. In this way, dopamine bursts also decrease, which ultimately increases, by association, the use of technological devices and social networks.

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How recommended is it?

In light of the fact that there is not enough data or scientific research on “dopamine fasting” to support its effectiveness, Rubio says the most appropriate and appropriate thing to do is to talk about “tech detox”, which refers to the same practice, but in a different, more “technical” way.

Voluntary adoption of “detox” habits like this is crucial, according to the expert, especially since it has been shown that abuse of screens It can trigger Fomo syndrome (an acronym for “fear of missing out”, that’s Spanish: fear of missing out). “This consequence of technology excess has been reviewed by several authors: we consume and consume technology almost out of fear of not being aware of it at the last moment” (see To learn more).

Likewise, Santiago Campillo, a biologist and science communicator, in an article for La Vanguardia, highlights two problems underlying the “dopamine fast” that are well known in the literature: conditioning and addiction theory.

The first, he says, has to do with a stimulus that is learned and reinforced because it provokes a dopamine response (for example, sharing with the person you love), and the second has to do with the fact that pleasure tends to decrease when the stimulus increases, i.e. n builds tolerance and it becomes necessary to produce more and more dopamine to feel good.

Now, according to psychiatrist Cameron Sepach, who would promote the practice through his LinkedIn account, “dopamine starvation” may be repeated between one and four hours each weekend; a full weekend every four months or a full week every year.

Can you do it all?

“Detoxification” can be applied to other activities that provide the same pleasure (sleep, eating, exercise). For Rubio pro though, issues like these: they play, socialize and have sex they are reinforcing natural practices, very positive, “which we should not deprive ourselves of unless medically indicated.”

In short, deprivation of happiness in itself makes no sense unless it is destructive behavior, for example addiction to psychoactive substances. “There are certain behaviors such as the consumption of stimulants (e.g. cocaine) that generate very high dopamine spikes associated with psychotic symptoms and illnesses such as schizophrenia,” the professional points out.

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However, risks such as these have not been proven to be directly related to the stimulation generated by the use of screens or social networks.

The recommendation for maintaining optimal mental health, experts agree, is to use this type of technology device sparingly (some recommend a maximum of two hours per day), practice good sleep hygiene, eat healthily, and use of free time in various activities: walk, exercise and talk. The ideal is to vary what activates it, to vary whatever generates pleasure.

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