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

The word fasting does not just refer to not eating. The Latin root eiunum means emptiness in general, absence. Therefore it is not unreasonable to speak of “dopamine fast” to allude to the deprivation of some everyday pleasures and thus the decrease in the production of the hormone that gives happiness.

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As reported by media outlets such as La Vanguardia de España, this practice — which has become popular over the past two years — is said to have originated in silicone valley, the area of ​​California (United States) where large corporations and corporations such as Apple, Google and Facebook come together.

Thus, dopamine fasting consists of remembering everyday pleasures associated with technological devices: using mobile phones, playing video games, checking emails on computers, etc.” ‘technological detox’ It started among executives of major technology multinationals who wanted to disconnect from the screens for a while,” confirms Jorge Mario Rubio, psychologist (@sporti.saludmental) and professor at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the University of Antioquia, “so that the stimulation in the reward and pleasure centers in the brain is reduced. In this way, dopamine bursts also decrease, which ultimately, through association, amplifies the use of technological devices and social networks.

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How recommended is it?

Given that there is not enough data or scientific studies regarding “dopamine fasting” to support its effectiveness, it is most appropriate and relevant, according to Rubio, to speak of “technological detoxification”, which refers to the same practice. , but in a different way, a more “technical” way.

According to the specialist, it is crucial to voluntarily adopt these kinds of “detox” habits, especially since it has been proven that the abuse of screens It can cause Fomo syndrome (acronym for “fear of missing out”, it’s Spanish: fear of missing something). “This consequence of technology overload has been assessed by several authors: we consume and consume technology almost out of fear of not being aware of it at the last minute” (see Learn more).

Similarly, in an article for La Vanguardia, Santiago Campillo, biologist and science communicator, highlights two issues on which the “dopamine fasting” is based, which 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 elicits a dopamine response (for example, sharing with the person you love), and the second has to do with pleasure tending to diminish. to take when stimuli increase, so tolerance builds and it becomes necessary to produce more and more dopamine to feel good.

Now, according to psychiatrist Cameron Sepah, who is said to have popularized the practice through his LinkedIn account, “dopamine fasting” it can be repeated every weekend between one and four o’clock; a full weekend every four months or a full week per year.

Can you do it all?

“Detoxify” can be applied to other activities that bring just as much pleasure (sleeping, eating, exercising). However, for the Rubio professional, there are problems like these: play, socialize and have sex they are enhancers of natural practices, very positive, “which we should not deprive ourselves of unless there is a medical indication”.

In short, depriving yourself of happiness in itself makes no sense unless it is destructive behavior, for example, addiction to psychoactive drugs. “There are certain behaviors such as the consumption of stimulants (e.g. cocaine) that generate very high peaks of dopamine that are linked to psychotic symptoms and diseases such as schizophrenia,” emphasizes the professional.

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However, it has not been proven that such risks are directly related to the stimulation generated by the use of screens or social networks.

The recommendation to maintain optimal mental health, experts agree, is to moderate use of these types of technological devices (some recommend up to two hours a day), practice good sleep hygiene, eat healthily, and using free time for varied activities: walking, exercising and talking. The ideal is to diversify what activates it, to vary in everything that generates pleasure.

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