How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Har ...

How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things

Aug 26, 2022

Dopamine Detox Saved My Life.

We probably don’t have a problem playing video games or browsing social media on our phones. In Fact, we could sit in front of a screen and do both of those activities for 2 hours, or even longer without breaking our concentration.

But what about half an hour of studying? How about working on the side business for another hour?

Even though we logically know that studying, exercising, building a business, or something equally productive, will bring us more benefits in the long run, we still prefer watching TV, playing video games, and scrolling through social media.

One might argue that it’s obvious. One activity is easy and doesn’t require much effort, while the other activity is difficult and it requires you to apply yourself.

How to Motivate Yourself to Do Things You Don’t Want to Do

To answer this question, we need to look at this brain neurotransmitter: Dopamine.

What is Dopamine?

It is Brain Neurotransmitter. Dopamine is often considered a pleasure molecule.

But that’s not quite what it does. Dopamine is what makes us desire things. And it’s that desire that gives us the motivation to get up and do stuff.

If you’re not sure how powerful dopamine is, let me introduce you to a few experiments neuroscientists did on rats!

Dopamine Experimenting:

The researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of rats. Whenever the rat pulled a lever, the researchers stimulated the rat’s reward system in the brain. The result was that the rats developed a craving so strong they kept pulling the lever, over and over for hours.

The rats would refuse to eat or even sleep. They would just keep pressing the lever until they would drop from exhaustion. But then the process was reversed. The researchers blocked the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward center.

As a result, rats became so lethargic that even getting up to get a drink of water was not worth the effort. They wouldn’t eat, They didn’t want to mate, They didn’t crave anything at all.

You could say that the rats lost all will to live.

However, if the food was placed directly in their mouths, the rats would still eat and enjoy the food. They just didn’t have the motivation to get up and do it themselves.

You would think that it's thirst or hunger that motivates us to get food or water. But there’s also dopamine that plays a key role here.

Those rat experiments might be extreme cases. But you can see similar effects dopamine has on humans and in our daily lives.

Dopamine Effects In Our Daily-Lives

In fact, our brain develops priorities in large part based on how much dopamine it’s expecting to get.

For example, before we eat comfort food, our brain releases dopamine because we anticipate that the food will make us feel good.

Even if it actually makes us feel worse. That’s because our brain doesn’t even care if the high dopamine activity is damaging to us. It just wants more of it.

If an activity releases too little dopamine, you won’t have much motivation to do it. But if an activity releases a lot of dopamine, you’ll be motivated to repeat it, over and over.

Which Behaviors Release Dopamine?

Any activity where you anticipate there’s a potential reward releases it. But if you know there are no immediate rewards with the behavior, your brain won’t release it.

Someone who’s a drug addict. He knows that what he’s doing is not good for him. But all he wants is to get more of that drug.

Besides getting you high, cocaine and heroin release unnatural amounts of dopamine, which in turn makes you crave them even more. And in today’s digital society, we are flooding our brains with unnaturally high amounts of dopamine on a daily basis, even if we don’t know it.

Some examples of high dopamine behaviors include: scrolling through social media websites, playing video games, watching internet pornography, etc.

We anticipate some sort of reward with each one of those behaviors. That’s why we’re constantly checking our phones. We expect to see a text message or some other notification.

We know that eventually, we’re going to receive it.

You might think, “Oh so what?” “It’s not like it’s harming me in any way.” But you’d be wrong.

Our bodies have a biological system called homeostasis. It means that our body likes to keep internal physical and chemical conditions at a balanced level. Whenever an imbalance occurs, our body adapts to it.

But there is another way homeostasis manifests itself. And that is through tolerance. And it’s not much different from dopamine.

Our body tries to maintain homeostasis, so it down-regulates our dopamine receptors. Essentially our brain gets used to having high levels of dopamine and those levels become our new normal. Thus we develop a dopamine tolerance.

This can be a huge problem, because the things that don’t give you as much dopamine, don’t interest you any longer.

And it’s much more difficult to motivate yourself to do them. We feel bored and less fun because they don’t release as much dopamine, compared to the things that do release it in high amounts.

Photo by on Unsplash

That’s why people tend to prefer playing video games or browsing the internet, compared to studying or working on their business.

Video games make us feel good and comfortable, as they release a lot of dopamine. Sadly things like working hard or reading releases it in lower amounts.

This is one of the reasons why drug addicts who try to quit, have a hard time adjusting to a normal life. Their dopamine tolerance gets so high that normal life isn’t able to match it.

It’s not just drug addicts. People who are addicted to video games, social media, or internet pornography experience the same thing. Once their dopamine tolerance gets too high, they simply aren’t able to enjoy low dopamine behaviors.

How to Prevent This?

The answer is you need to perform a dopamine detox.

What you’re going to do is set aside a day, where you’re going to avoid all the highly stimulating activities. You’re going to stop flooding your brain with high amounts of dopamine and you’re going to let your dopamine receptors recover.

Just a disclaimer: If you’re suffering from drug addiction, then I suggest you seek professional help, as you’ve probably formed a physiological and psychological dependence. And I don’t want you to experience any extreme withdrawal symptoms.

For 1 whole day, you will try to have a little fun as possible. You won’t be using the internet or any technology like your phone or computer. You’re not allowed to listen to music, you’re not allowed to masturbate or eat any junk food.

Some Steps You Need to Take:

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

Basically, you’re going to remove all sources of external pleasure for the entire day. You’re going to embrace boredom. Trust me, there will be a lot of boredom.

You are however allowed to do the following:

  • Go for a walk.

  • Meditate and be alone with your thoughts.

  • Reflect on your life and goals.

  • Write down any ideas you get. (Not on your computer or phone, but on a piece of paper.)

All of this might seem quite intense. But if you want radical results and you want them fast, you need to be able to take radical action.

Why Would This Even Work?

Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

You can think of it, this way. Let’s say that you’ve been eating every single meal at the best restaurant in your town. As a result, what happened is that those fancy meals became your new normal.

If someone offered you a bowl of plain rice, you would probably refuse. It simply wouldn’t taste as good as your usual restaurant meal.

But if you suddenly find yourself stranded on a deserted island and you’re starving, suddenly that bowl of plain rice doesn’t seem so bad. And that is what the dopamine detox does. It starves you of all the pleasure you usually get, and in turn, it makes those less satisfying activities more desirable.

To put it simply:

Dopamine detox works because you become so bored, that boring stuff becomes more fun.

Now if you don’t want to take such extreme action and starve yourself of all the pleasure, you can perform a smaller dopamine detox.

Pick one day of the week, where you’re to refrain from one of your high dopamine behaviors completely.

Whatever that behavior might be!

Maybe checking your phone all the time, playing video games on your computer, binge-watching TV, eating junk food, watching internet pornography, whatever.

And from now on, every single week for one whole day, you’re going to avoid that activity. You can still do other things, but the behavior you pick is off-limits.

Yes, you will feel slightly bored, but that is the point. You want to let your dopamine receptors recover from the unnaturally high dopamine that’s been flooding your brain.

And boredom is going to propel you to do other things that day. But ideally, you should avoid those behaviors altogether, or at least as much as possible. Instead, you want to connect more dopamine to the things that will actually benefit you.

Long-Term Benefits

And what I found is that your current high dopamine activities can serve as an incentive to pursue things, that actually give you those long-term benefits.

In other words, you could use your high dopamine activity, as a reward for completing difficult work. And this is exactly what I do myself.

I track all the difficult, low dopamine work I do.

Cleaning my apartment, Practicing the piano, reading books, doing some sort of exercise, etc. After I’m able to get a certain amount of work done, I reward myself with some amount of high dopamine activity at the end of the day.

Reward Yourself

The keywords here are “after” and “at the end of the day”.

Photo by nine koepfer on Unsplash

If I indulge in high dopamine behavior first, then I’m not going to feel like doing the low dopamine work. I’m simply not going to be motivated enough. So I always start with the difficult things, only then do I allow myself to indulge in high dopamine activities.


It is possible to make doing difficult things, feel easier. But when your brain is getting so much dopamine all the time, you won’t be as excited about working on something that doesn’t release much of it.

That’s why you might want to limit your phone and computer usage, along with other high dopamine-releasing behavior. And I can tell you that it’s definitely worth it.

So if you have motivation problems, start dopamine detoxing your brain as soon as possible.

Separate yourself from the unnaturally high amounts of dopamine, or at least expose yourself to it far less frequently. Only then will normal, everyday, low dopamine activities, become exciting again and you’ll be able to do them for longer.

Are you going to get it from things that don’t benefit you? Or are you going to get it from working on your long-term goals? The choice is yours!

As always, thanks, and I hope this article made you better than yesterday!

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