Dopamine Detox for Artists
(A 14-Day Diary of my Insights and Infractions)
The internet is beset with articles and videos by health and lifestyle gurus regarding this new trend of dopamine detoxing. I wanted to try it for myself, from the point of view of the artist.
Be prepared for the ups and downs and a whole lot of creativity and productivity!
If you’re struggling to focus or you keep procrastinating — whether it’s to do with your art or any other area of your life — a dopamine detox can be a pretty powerful and revealing exercise.
Luckily, I’m not one who’s addicted to social media, gaming, drugs or eating junk food, but I was forced to face many of my bad habits. And this 14-day experiment made me realise the innocuous-seeming activities that suck my time, and lessen my productivity and my mental clarity.
I’m not going to go into what a dopamine detox is. There’s a tonne of info out there. But this is a good article.
Needless to say, I felt like the time had come where I really needed to do this. I was spending way too much time farting about online, procrastinating, demotivated, and unfocused.
Throughout the process, I wrote daily in a journal, recording the day’s events and my personal ruminations and insights.
This then is basically what I wrote in my little notebook each day. Therefore it may be quite a personal blog, but I hope you’ll find it interesting. It’s pretty long for a blog post, so I like to think of it as a short story.
I guess I might as well be narcissistically posting about my life on social media. But I’m not writing this for popularity.
I’m well aware of the irony of the ‘reward-seeking’ that may come from inadvertently declaring how wonderful I am by publicly sharing the fact that I did a ‘detox’ — much like one posts photos of their gym workout on Instagram.
But as titled above, this post also covers my failures, and I know I’m not that wonderful.
I had just done a dry January and achieved my goal of not drinking any alcohol for 30 days (we celebrated New Years Day with wine).
So initially, I wanted to do a dopamine detox for the whole month of February (the shortest month), but I then changed my mind to do just two weeks.
It’s really not a good time right now to put even more pressure on myself, especially as we are selling our house and moving to a new city as soon as the sale goes through. But then, one could excuse themselves that no time is really the ‘right’ time for such a difficult undertaking. Kind of like telling yourself you’ll start dieting or gym ‘next year’.
I think I’ll revisit this dopamine detox business further in the year though (I’ll try doing it for 30 days) and maybe do it more regularly or every year.
Also, not telling people about it will probably make it feel more real.
I hope this blog post also inspires you to write a two week journal of your daily happenings too. It can be quite an interesting exercise. I would love to read yours if you’re willing to share it.
Rules for my personal dopamine detox challenge
For my personal dopamine detox, I challenged myself to address the negative dopamine-spiking activities that ping the reward centres of my brain: no reaching for my phone every half an hour to see if I have any notifications, no screens, no T.V., no computer, no internet, no going onto sites and reading content for hours, no recorded music, no coffee, no snacking, no wine or drinking.
These are the things that I use to break the monotony of daily life; the things that are over-stimulating, non-essential, distracting or even just bad for me.
I also wanted to be more health and productivity focused. So that meant spending more time exercising, meditating, being outside, drawing or painting, playing guitar, and being more ‘present’ every day. Whatever that means.
Day 1 — information overload and the beginning of coffee withdrawals
I’m really lucky that in my ‘job’, I don’t need to work on a computer or laptop all day. Thank God!
The thing is though, that I usually spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the computer; working on my website, minor coding here and there, video editing, reading, writing and research, surfing the rabbit holes and plunging really far down them, and learning.
Everyday my brain is soaked in information like pudding in brandy.
I crave information. I’m eternally curious about one thing, then the next; my days are filled with endless tunnels of over-information. And the more I learn, the more I become addicted to wanting to find out more.
I mean it’s good to learn every day. But I often find myself having surfed interesting articles, videos and blog posts for hours, before getting back to my important task of working on my art.
This obviously leaves me with less hours in the day to work on my paintings or drawings.
First day of the dopamine detox and I’m already dying for a cup of coffee. Am I really that chemically addicted?
Very sleepy all day. I even had an afternoon catnap on the couch.
But I did manage to get my 20 minute meditation, stretching and weights done before the day became too unbearably hot.
I sized a large canvas with pH neutral PVA for a new commission and started on a new book of drawings that I’m working on.
I also wrote down a lot of plans and ideas for my art career in my art journal. So already a very productive day.
My mind feels weird, looking for constant stimulation, but left facing only my own thoughts. The day felt longer, but I still had a lot of things to do and not enough time.
But I recognised the addiction of trying to over-achieve and of not having enough rest or downtime.
It feels like I’m in my early 20’s again, in the days before the internet and constant distractions. My artistic output during that period of my life was incredible. I had no T.V. or computer then. T.V. and phones take up so much time!
I also haven’t drunk any alcohol in 30 days already. The longest time in 21 years!
Feeling closer already to reality. My reality. Not someone else’s. Not a televised, digital, artificial or virtual reality. And not the reality fed to us purposefully drip by drip through the media.
I paged through one of my large beautiful books on art history today. The crude but beautiful ancient art allowed more space for the imagination to bloom than ‘reality’ itself.
Needless to say, I was thinking much on the nature of reality. And its subjectiveness.
Perhaps that’s what art is: an image of reality, but in a dream-like, story-telling version of it. A human narrative. Not reality itself. Reality can never be frozen or captured in time.
Day 2 — already a total cock up
Was supposed to go hiking with my sister, but it started raining, so we went to the pub nearby instead for craft beers and pizza.
Then she wanted to take me to the movie theatre in town (the Labia Theatre in Cape Town which was founded in 1949 and plays cult, classic art and independent movies). Her treat she said, since my wife and I are soon moving to another city.
Well I accepted and the movie (Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchette) was 2 and a half hours long!
So much for my no screen and alcohol detox.
When I got home, I got into trouble with my wife, Janine, who couldn’t reach me while estate agents and lawyers were making demands and giving her issues. We ended up fighting. Great.
The movie gave me much food for thought (it’s dark, psychological and brilliant, depicting the ruin of a man through his ego, greed, drinking and other vices). Especially when in a place of conflict and estrangement with my spouse.
Day 3 (or one again?) — conflict and exhilaration
Had another massive fight with Janine, so we weren’t speaking to each other.
I left the house with my backpack without saying anything and went walking up the mountain near our house to find the cave I’d been meaning to explore since forever. Today was enough motivation to look for it.
It was a seriously steep climb in loose sand (my calves and lungs were on fire) but well worth it. Views all around the whole valley. I could see both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans at the same time (living on the Southern tip of Africa).
I noticed two foreign national black guys walking up the mountain far below me. They made short work of it. Not wishing to encounter them, as crime is just a part of life in this country, I started heading down the backside of the mountain to go around them.
I never did find the cave as I didn’t go around the front. I think I was actually standing on top of it the whole time!
Going through thick fynbos and trees, and over some scary overhangs and through caves beneath huge boulders, I also crossed on top of large areas of dead branches and fallen trees that held my weight.
The bush was really thick and I got seriously snagged and scratched up. But it’s the terrain I grew up in and I’m used to it.
The two men sat on a rocky outcrop and began chanting to their ancestors in a frenzied, disconcerting manner. They chanted frantic sentences without breath or pause, working themselves up into a religious trance.
I made a wide berth around them, not sure if they saw me.
Scratched on every limb, sunburnt and exhausted, it had been exhilarating to be back in nature and in the fynbos where I always felt at home.
I have a natural ability to find paths and read the terrain, and I’m quite confident when moving. My body knows what to do and I trust it.
I met a female black agama lizard who didn’t deem me any kind of a threat, so it stayed still while I took photos of it just inches away.
At home again, in the afternoon, I ate my fruit and yogurt (my new health regime) and completed a painting that I shall sell at the end of the month.
Janine still wasn’t talking to me and she went to an evening church meeting. I was lucky to have the house to myself. I started learning Handel’s Largo on the guitar.
So far I have been rather productive, though I did look up info on kaolin mines in the area and a recipe for making bread with sour milk. I’m trying really hard not to be on my phone.
Day 4 — holding stress and information
We don’t realise how often we check our phones or the internet for information. Like weather apps before a hike, banking, online recipes etc.
In the ‘old days’, we would look up the number for a restaurant or business in the Yellow Pages. Now everything is on Google.
I’m trying to remember what information is available in the books on my shelves. So this gets the memory working.
Also, not being able to go onto Google for information/answers to random questions that come to me during the day, means that I’m not being fed easy (and sometimes lame or even heavily politicised) answers to things constantly, and I need to think about them for myself.
Or at least, not be fed information from an outside source. This means that my thoughts are forced to go a little deeper. To ponder and get the neurons working.
Apparently, we also retain information much better when reading from a page than from a screen. Something to do with our breathing and the creation of synapses.
(Besides, I don’t trust Google any more and prefer to search with DuckDuckGo, now that I understand Google’s control of the information we are allowed to receive and their many nefarious agendas, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog.)
Today Janine and I made friends and we went for a run in the morning. I also used my weights outside and did my 20 minute meditation.
I baked sour milk bread which was… interesting. And I completed the restoration of an old painting with an illegible signature for a friend of mine.
After sizing a canvas again, I spent most of the day on my drawings for the book. I only looked up things twice on my phone.
Then I gave up on trying to fool myself that I wasn’t going to drink this month and drank Sauvignon blanc with Janine; it being Friday night after all and we like to have a glass of wine together.
The wine went to my head because I wasn’t used to it after a month of no drinking. It brought up some strange feelings and emotions. I don’t usually feel particularly emotional because of wine. But alcohol can be a depressive.
It made me realise I’m carrying a lot of stress and unresolved emotions in my body and psyche — the recent marital fight and our vastly different personalities, cultures and communication styles; the fact that we’re leaving the place of my birth and my family; the uncertainty of the country’s future and our own; the reaction to my brain going on a detox; this house which I renovated and that has taken such a toll on my productivity and left us both feeling unsettled for two years.
Perhaps I’m not happy? Perhaps it’s just temporary and it’s just this house we are living in now.
Janine made grilled lamb. I made a salad with rocket picked from the garden.
I’m constantly looking for distraction from being focused on one thing. So instead of going onto my computer or phone, I read my book. And practiced guitar.
Day 5 and 6 — a weekend of uncouth debauchery
On the weekend, I did a fair bit of drinking. A total backslide. I’m going to Hell.
Saturday morning, after meditation, yoga and reading some Greek Mythology, I did some garden work with our Malawian gardener, so spent a healthy part of the morning barefoot in the sun.
I collected and sorted many species of seeds and flowering heads from the garden that I wish to propagate in our new one, including sorting through a large pile of Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) seed pods. (I’m not interested in taking natural opioids, rather I want the oil for painting.)
I primed the first coat of the canvas I’m working on and worked the rest of the day on my drawing. Janine and I finished the half bottle of leftover Sauv-blanc and had tequilla cocktails.
I worked on a new guitar piece, then we watched a stupid movie which I regretted. But at least we enjoyed spending time together.
Sunday was a total write-off. I worked on my drawings, yoga and meditation in the morning after waking up really early. Then was invited to a lunchtime get-together with a few good artist and creative friends of mine.
Janine didn’t want to go; she was free to choose to stay home, but even so, I was a bit irritated and went alone.
I brought an ice cold bottle of Sauvignon blanc (it was a 40°C day!) and since my ‘yoke’ had been lifted, I proceeded to become uncouth and drank the whole bottle myself (plus another third of the host’s wine), and smoked my tobacco.
The socialising, the food and the company was wonderful. Sitting outside in the garden, many a chin-wag, deep convo and a laugh was had, while many in the party — young and old — swam in the pool.
I was surprised that many at the lunch table were so pro-vax (I assumed most artist/creative types would be more discerning of the mainstream, but that’s just me stereotyping I suppose).
But I remained quiet, refusing to engage or argue with others’ beliefs. Because it’s not my place to do so, nor to judge. Put whatever knows what is in that stuff in your own body if you like (I’m sure we can all trust a company that put asbestos in baby powder. And who cares about their Eugenics Program origins?).
I think this whole scenario has taught me to keep my opinions to myself, especially if those opinions make others uncomfortable. Because I’m the one who gets lambasted and nobody listens anyway.
I have no right to tell others what or how to think. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of inflation and self-righteousness.
And I don’t need others to speak into my life either (they have no right).
I only wish people still had the same courtesy; to allow others to choose their own way. Especially regarding putting undisclosed and untested substances in one’s body, and incredibly, advocating mandating such an action, so that freedom of choice or basic democracy has become an inconvenience and is stripped away.
A three-year-old boy is dressed in girl’s clothes at preschool because in our woke-tard society, kids (who have no developed concept of self identity yet) are allowed to ‘choose’ what gender they want to be (because Nature or God made a mistake), but intelligent, well-researched adults can’t choose how to manage their own health and autonomy.
Both sides of the vax wars like to point fingers and call the other side stupid. It’s been designed to weaken us.
The world is a sick Communist joke, but I think I’ve matured to the point where I don’t need to dwell on it all day. I don’t need to be the know-it-all at a social gathering.
I don’t need to proselytize or warn others because most are lost already anyway. Or maybe, it’s actually just their personal karma playing out and their personal journey which doesn’t involve me.
Some of us aren’t ready for freedom of self, freedom of thought etc. Because it can be extremely daunting taking back responsibility for our own lives.
Some people still need the top-down hierarchical society of believing that governments and so-called ‘experts’ have our best interests at heart. Newsflash! They don’t. (Anyway, we now have conflict in the Ukraine — the next distraction by the Globalists so they can sidestep their orchestrated plan-demic. The financial systems of the West are going to crash.)
I think a lot of people are going to be quite upset when they find their paradigm crumbling. These people are going to need compassion, not judgement.
Therefore I must allow others to believe what they want. Just don’t shove your self-righteousness down my throat. We can still love each other.
Day 7 — regret (drinker’s remorse)
Needless to say, my body feels way too acidic today after all the wine. I also wonder if I said something bad or acted inappropriately, but at least I tried really hard not to be offensive by holding my tongue.
So I’m going to try and be really disciplined this week. Regretting my overindulgence and feeling like crap, I went for a run in the morning with Janine.
Then had lemon and ginger tea, and proceeded to eat healthy food throughout the day (Janine’s homemade seed and nut rusks, lots of fruit and yogurt etc.)
I primed a canvas and worked on my drawings the entire day, learnt a new Bach minuet on the guitar, and was generally quite productive.
No computer screens, no T.V., no scrolling through my phone.
Trying to stay focused for the entire day wasn’t easy, but I forced myself to be disciplined and get my work done, chastising myself for the weekend’s behaviour.
My tired mind was constantly looking for distractions. But I wouldn’t have it. I left my phone off, read my book during lunch break, then continued to focus for the rest of the afternoon.
To give myself a break from the monotony and to re-energise, I did yoga.
It’s been a week since I drank any coffee, and surprisingly, I’m getting through the withdrawals. Though I was severely tempted today, feeling like crap after the weekend.
For dinner, Janine and I made a healthy vegetarian pasta, then went for a walk hand in hand around the neighbourhood while the sky turned orange on a windless summer evening.
I called my mom on the phone later, then worked further on my drawings at night, as well as photographed one of my paintings.
Day 8 — focus, noise and mental clarity
Still struggling to focus on one thing for hours without getting very tired or distracted, but I think I’m definitely getting better.
Also, the heat is hectic this summer. And the neighbourhood has always been extremely noisy.
Usually I can’t concentrate on my own thoughts for long without the neighbours’ dogs going insane every 5 minutes, the blaring car music of the gym jocks across the street reverberating against our window panes, the bad drummer who can’t keep a simple beat, the ambulance sirens tearing through the valley or the firetrucks screaming and honking as they barge through the midday traffic every hour or so (I’m convinced it’s a plan to create panic and you would really think the entire peninsula must be burnt to a crisp by now, or everyone in the population is in intensive care for a mild cough).
And then there is the traffic noise: like living next to a four lane race track with every biker, ricer or jalopy with a fat exhaust heard from the other side of the mountain.
Sometimes these low-gene-pool specimens rev their engines so high at the traffic lights that I pray for a piston to explode through a bonnet.
Whatever thoughts I had are extinguished and I feel dumbed down. I never liked this area and thank God we’re leaving. This makes things a little more bearable; knowing that it’s only temporary.
Where you live can really influence your artistic productivity and your mental health. We are products of our environments.
Still running in the mornings, doing weights, working on my commission and my drawings, reading, playing with my cat and learning new pieces on the guitar.
I also framed a painting I’m selling while Janine made mango and strawberry sorbet. So I feel like I can tick a lot off my list.
Without succumbing to going onto the internet, it’s more difficult to work without using references for drawings and compositions.
But this is a good exercise to test the imagination and be more reliant on invention and one’s inner eye. I can feel the cogs in my brain turning as I try to imagine the forms and spaces in three dimensions in my head.
Day 9 — silence, snacking and over-stimulation
I’ve been recording my dreams almost every day for over a year now, and I wonder how my dreams might change or become more weird or coherent without the programming influence of watching T.V.
By working everyday in silence (or at least trying to while the neighbour has industrial machinery running every day because he started a polyurethane spraying business from home — I’m sure he’s not zoned for that — and parks his customers’ vehicles along our verge), by working in silence, without any podcasts or music, I have no buffer against the noises of the world.
I suppose this is how artists worked for generations before.
Playing guitar and learning the sheet music puts me more in touch with the composer’s feelings and inspirations; the melodies run through my head the entire day; small phrases repeating over and over.
This is how it must have been before people had radios. Without going to concerts or church services, the only music people had the luxury of hearing in their homes, was the music they played or sang themselves or heard in their heads.
Then again, there wasn’t as much industrial or synthetic noise in the world as there is today.
I put my phone off because even its shrill notification noises breaks my train of thought.
A person needs 15 minutes of concentrated focus to get into the rhythm of a task. Especially cerebral tasks such as writing or drawing.
So every distraction is a step backwards and silence is really a rare commodity in our current times. Most people wouldn’t even know what to do with 15 minutes of silence.
I’m fighting a constant battle today to stop looking for things to snack on. It’s a way to break the tedium and give my brain a dopamine boost, this snacking business.
Or I’m making another cup of tea (the only source of caffeine since I’ve withdrawn from coffee).
At least we don’t often keep sugary commercial poisons in the larder such as sweets, chocolates, chips, biscuits and cookies. No, in this kitchen, Janine works wonders.
I usually have a choice of homemade muffins, rusks, peanut brittle, apple crumble, millionaires, brownies, ginger biscuits, date balls, or whatever she decides to bake on a whim (usually with a quarter of the recipe’s required sugar or none at all — how do people eat so much sugar??)
Most of the stuff she makes is the healthy version with lots of nuts and seeds, and dates or honey for sweetness.
Anyway, I kept wanting to go to the kitchen to fill my face, only really to break up the long moments of the day.
However, I restrain myself and keep working. I’m still struggling without coffee in the mornings and feeling sluggish. But after getting my blood to flow through yoga or working out, the brain fog departs and I feel great.
I still get quite tired halfway through the day though and feel like sleeping. The extreme summer heat doesn’t help. But I also think it’s important to listen to one’s body and rest.
I realised that in our modern lives with so much stimulation and busyness, we don’t allow ourselves to enough time to wind down. Take away the input and stimulation (including T.V.) and you may just find yourself daydreaming for half an hour.
Day 10 — computers and the insidious internet
It’s annoying how much we rely on the internet. It makes my no screen challenge extremely difficult.
I’m also glad I never bought into the whole Bitcoin (Ponzi) scheme. Let the 99% drink that Kool-aid. It’s going to come to a bad end I’m sure.
Trading in crypto must be a serious dopamine trigger.
And yes, I was interested in the hype behind trading in NFTs in virtual worlds, but seriously, how will these zombies ever extract themselves from this fake, meaningless reality? Dopamine addiction madness.
It’s pretty scary.
I mean, it’s hard enough to unplug from social media. I pity the youngsters these days. They have no idea.
When the Web 3.0 becomes more mainstream (virtual) reality, society is going to be seriously effed. As if it isn’t already. People like to believe we’ll have more privacy, more security (these are not mutually exclusive), more autonomy from centralised governments etc.
But how can that be possible when central banks still control the digital currency (cashless society) and you’ll need a digital I.D. passport to access the web?
With a social scoring system, how can you freely buy and sell what you want or need and not what the ‘powers-that-shouldn’t-be’ allow or deem what you deserve?
Anyway, let me not go down a rabbit hole. The point is, dopamine triggers in the online space are extremely powerful and addictive behaviour modifiers. And the Big Tech and social media companies obviously know this.
That’s why it’s important to know how to navigate or even occasionally disconnect from the online world and not let it drain your life force.
As an artist, I’m also keenly aware of scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram ‘looking for inspiration’ and comparing my work to all the homogeneous junk online. Yes, there’s a lot of cool stuff. But how much of what you see is actually authentic, heart-stirring original art?
How much time do you spend scrolling and wishing you’d ‘done that’ when you could’ve been painting or working on something?
I don’t surf social media anymore (I deleted all those accounts) nor look on the internet for inspiration much either.
It skews what’s in your imagination to begin with and this dopamine challenge has made me even more aware of how tempting it is to want to go online to download ideas.
It’s a real act of will to create an artwork completely from imagination.
I couldn’t get into a solid workflow today. We had potential buyers viewing the house, a building inspector poking around in the roof, and our lovely Zimbabwean domestic worker dusting the mess around me (we actually spend most mornings discussing the crops in the garden — Zimbos and Malawians are natural farmers and I learn so much about growing organic produce from them).
It all started when Janine asked me to paint and scan important legal documents for her. Which meant going into my email accounts and all that.
Then I decided to update my Linux operating system while I was on the computer anyway. (The nice thing about Linux, is you’re not forced to do an update. Unlike the Windows -spyware- which takes over your P.C. and does what it wants, with Linux, you still own the computer.)
I had left the update notification sitting there for about a month before I decided to investigate what it entailed. This meant going online and reassuring myself through careful reading that I wasn’t going to cause myself any inconveniences through the update.
Being online meant reading more articles about Mozilla Firefox’s telemetry and other tech stuff. Before I knew it, I had already spent a few hours in front of the computer.
It began with the requisite printing and scanning, then sorting out documents, updating software, researching, ordering a gift for Janine’s birthday and booking a table at a restaurant.
Damn this bloody internet. It’s so convenient for modern life.
Day 11 — good feels
Clearly I haven’t been completely unwavering in my challenge, but since I’m such an extreme person, it’s been important for me not to be dragged down by my small infractions and quit. Everything is about balance.
I think the most important takeaway is being aware of the things in one’s life that are dopamine triggers. Then you stand more of a chance of forming better habits, rather than being controlled by the bad ones.
I did my yoga, meditation and weights workout before the heat of the day kicked in.
During this ‘detox’, I’ve been maintaining my exercise regime, eating healthy foods and walking barefoot outside. I don’t feel weighed down or sluggish anymore.
My mood is far more upbeat and calm.
I spend the whole day working on my painting commission and learnt a new piece on the guitar. Then Janine and I went to my parents for supper.
We had wine and stayed until almost midnight, with me drinking botanical gin with my dad, and Janine and my mom chatting about musicals and singing (they’re both semi-professional singers). The cheeky dogs crept coyly onto the couches beside us.
I thought, ‘Hell, it’s Friday. I’m done with the no alcohol thing on weekends, since every weekend so far has been a drinking one. At least I’m not drinking in the week. Mostly.’
Day 12 — nature’s gift and little signs
My sister and I went for an early morning hike up Chapman’s Peak mountain. The walk was pretty steep and we ascended quickly above the sea, with the 3,5km stretch of the white sands of Long Beach stretching toward the South.
We didn’t feel the need to ‘conquer’ the peak. It was the right amount of exercise to get the blood going and get some nature and sun; and the right amount of time to enjoy a morning of gabbing and catching up.
I collected some really beautiful purplish brown shale with which I shall make a pigment for oil paint. I carry a small geologist’s hammer for this purpose.
The rock, known as maroon Graafwater Formation is composed of hydrated ferric oxide and manganese which creates the beautiful colour. So it’s basically a natural umber.
Creationists believe these layers were formed during Noah’s great flood. Though it seems these sedimentary bands were formed 450 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period, when Africa was still part of Gondwana and vertebrates had yet to evolve. (The Table Mountain range is really one of the oldest mountains in the world and the Cape Floral Kingdom is the world’s richest floristic site.)
Back home, Janine and I made a brunch with her homemade flatbread, eggs, bacon and relish.
She had also made a limoncello by soaking halved lemons in vodka and left in the fridge for months. So it was nice to cook together and have brunch at the table with mango and limoncello cocktails.
Side note: I keep seeing 11:11 or 1:11 or 12:12 or 15:51 etc. It’s becoming ridiculous. Not sure if this means anything and I hardly ever check the time, but it seems I have a habit of seeing the time on the microwave, the little alarm clock or my phone at exactly that point.
Day 13 — processing and reflection
Janine went to church in the morning (it being a Sunday), while I watered the garden. We woke up at 5:45 AM and the orange-rimmed clouds were spectacular.
Somehow I got caught up with going through my own songs and compositions I’d written from 2013 onward.
I use a free open-source program called Musescore to compose music — just for my own entertainment. I tried adapting a piano piece I wrote for guitar, but gave up and started writing a whole new piece instead.
Playing it without making any mistakes is another matter.
We had cocktails and wine with lunch (I’ve allowed myself to have wine with my wife on weekends — ha!).
I got sick of being on the computer composing music (when I’m supposed to be on a digital detox anyways), so I forced myself to get some painting done at the easel.
Then I helped Janine with making roast chicken with sage and lemon for dinner, watched a movie and the day was done.
Somehow, as I near my mark of 14 day dopamine detox, I’m becoming a lot less disciplined and more distracted. I suppose I would give myself a C or even a D if this was a test.
Maybe I’ll try again some time and take it more seriously. Though, this challenge was much more difficult than I thought it would be.
I’ve drank alcohol on many occasions, smoked tobacco, watch T.V., listened to music once (there was so much outside noise, I couldn’t concentrate, so I gave in and donned my earphones), I checked my YouTube channel once, and looked up things online a few times (not just looking up a restaurant or a hiking trail route).
But I still haven’t had any coffee (I really felt those depressing withdrawals), still haven’t eaten the chocolate I’m saving in the kitchen cupboard, still haven’t read any alternative news channels and been sucked into the world’s drama (like most people these days, I don’t believe in the MSM).
I’ve meditated, exercised, played guitar, and done some work on my art every day. My productivity has been far more prolific. And I’ve spent a lot more time outdoors and feeling healthy.
Day 14 — final hoorah!
Valentine’s Day. The last day of the dopamine detox.
Did my morning workout and meditation. Then spent the whole day working on my painting commission.
It was actually quite exhausting. The canvas is quite large and I’m not used to standing all day painting.
Later in the evening, Janine and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a picnic of cheeses, crackers and bubbly overlooking the beautiful coast from up on the mountain toward Hout Bay, while the sunset turned the rocks, slopes and sea dusky red.
A fitting end to a grueling ordeal (which I didn’t really do properly some days), but I was happy and had gain a lot of insight into my own habits and nature.
Final thoughts on my personal dopamine detox
Going forward, I don’t think it’s necessary to inconvenience your life to the point of rigid absurdity. Rather, it’s important to be aware of the cravings which control our behaviour, leave us feeling dissatisfied, and cut into our time and productivity.
A dopamine detox is meant to be a way of cleaning out the unnecessary rubbish in one’s life. A time of intense focus.
It’s always good to gain a new perspective and to at least try challenge yourself once in a while. Even if you don’t even follow your own rules sometimes.
I am reminded once again of how disciplined, productive, calm and inspired I can actually be!
Thanks for reading this long blog post. If you’re thinking of doing a dopamine detox challenge, let me know and please share your story too. Writing in a journal is a powerful exercise for self-awareness and processing, as well as for inspiration. And reading the day to day in the lives of others is something I’ve always enjoyed.
Check out Where Do Artists Find Inspiration?