'I went on a dopamine cleanse for a week. Here’s exactly what happened.'

I'll admit… I'm addicted to my phone.

And while my average screen time isn't atrociously high, hovering around 3.5 hours per day on average (the average Australian who spends an average of 5.67 hours per day), it's not great.

I'm a slave to fleeting dopamine hits that come from mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, often leading me onto random profiles of old high school acquaintances whom I haven't spoken to in over a decade. And even when I consciously make an effort to limit my time on Insta, a reply to a group chat or a message from my mum has the ability to send me back into the app's vortex of endless scrolling, leaving me wondering how the hell I ended up wasting yet another 10 minutes of my day.

My dependence on dopamine from my phone goes beyond social media. Even the simplest tasks, like unloading the dishwasher, feel excruciating without the soothing distraction of a podcast. Apparently, my own thoughts and experiencing any sort of boredom are so unbearable that I must constantly fill the silence with background noise? (Wot!).

And, so I realised it was time for a dopamine detox.

Watch: Life with or without your mobile phone. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

For me, this meant an entire week without social media (yep, even LinkedIn) and the soothing sound of podcasts. The point here is to temporarily abstain from activities that trigger dopamine release, aiming to recalibrate the brain's reward system.

While it's not technically possible to completely fast from dopamine, as it's a naturally produced neurotransmitter, the detox aims to make the 'pleasure centres' more balanced. I was ridding myself of an unconscious habit of seeking quick fixes through social media scrolling and other dopamine-triggering activities.

Here's how it went.

Early Sunday morning, I said goodbye to all things social media, and surprisingly, I didn't miss it straight away. The day unfolded with a coffee with friends, and some rigorous cleaning of my apartment while listening to music which was a nice change of pace. By lunchtime, the detox had almost slipped my mind, that was until I waited in the car while my partner ducked into the supermarket for a few things.

I unconsciously reached for my phone, a habitual response in the idle moments between. But the app icons that once beckoned me with their dopamine-fueled promises were now replaced with miscellaneous apps I didn't care to open.

So I sat there, doing nothing and to be honest it wasn't half bad. My thoughts were free to roam, time seemed to slow down, and overall, it was okay. Maybe I'm cut out for that off-the-grid life in a cozy little cabin after all.


I was amazed at how quickly I could detach from my phone. Humans are incredibly adaptable, and I was able to break free from a habit that had been deeply ingrained in my daily routine. Of course, I still thought about social media occasionally, and yes, I sometimes missed the mindless scrolling before bed. But when I was busy or connecting with others in person, I was fully present, and the cravings faded away as I replaced them with other enjoyable activities, like reading or going for a walk (I would even walk without my airpods – crazy, I know!).

After a week, void of all things dopamine boosting, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I'm perfectly content to leave my phone behind when I'm out with friends. 

It's refreshing to just sit and relax without having your phone near you. And, turns out, just sitting there isn't awkward at all; it's just something we've conditioned ourselves to believe.

The moments when I missed my phone were the idle between moments, like my lunch break, sitting on the train or waiting for a coffee. Instead of grabbing my phone for a meaningless scroll, sometimes, I'd find myself looking at old photos from my travels. So, maybe I have an addiction to looking at small square pictures? Who knows.

Without social media and podcasts, I realised I could actually watch a whole show without getting distracted (who knew). And, by day four, I felt like I never wanted it back. I was starting to enjoy life without sponsored ads, influencers and the overconsumption of celebrity goss and entrepreneurial education.


While my dopamine detox didn't completely change my life and I most definitely wasn't about to delete my accounts forever. When I really thought about it, it did make me far more aware of my phone usage. As Sunday approached, I didn't feel particularly eager to reinstall the apps, but I did, and once again I was scrolling.

After five minutes of scrolling through pictures of engagements and European holidays, I realised something: I was getting bored faster than I usually would. The thrill of social media that kept me scrolling was wearing off.

After spending a week off socials, I felt great and I think moving forward I'll take more breaks. Maybe not a whole week again, but a 'Mindful Monday' once a week sounds like the miniature detox I need. Or maybe I could unplug on a busy weekend when I want to connect with friends without the need to post a story about it.

Instead of listening to podcasts all the time, I'm enjoying letting my mind wander. And since I love music, it's been fun to discover new artists.

If you're thinking about doing a social media detox, I think you should. It's refreshing to take a break from something that we know isn't good for us. And, even if you don't think you're addicted (let's be honest, we all are), there's no real loss, everything was the exact same.

And that was the problem all along.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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