The detox domino
Detox, the process of abstaining or ridding our bodies of unhealthy substances, seems to be entrenched in our lives. As we get closer to Christmas, we start fretting about our post-holiday detox. And with the onset of summer, we google “pre-summer detox” and, for good measure, also “after-summer detox.” But our collective obsession with detox isn’t restricted to holidays. There are month- and week-long detox programs we can follow all year long, as well as two-day, one day, and even mini-detox options for instant cleansing (which, presumably, we can repeat with the frequency of falling dominoes).
Wouldn't it be better to examine why we accumulate all these toxins in our bodies in the first place, and then form healthier daily habits, instead of playing detox domino all the time?
The dopamine domino
Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter with many roles. Known as the “feel-good” hormone, it is part of our reward system. Dopamine gives us a sense of pleasure and motivates us to do things that make us feel good.
It all goes back to our evolutionary origins, and the need to reward ourselves for doing the basic things we had to do to survive, such as eating and drinking. Today there’s nothing essentially wrong with broadening our pursuit of pleasure, to include exercising, cooking, listening to our favorite music, or doing whatever else rings our bell.
But dopamine also has a dark side, associated with our motivation to seek out gratification. That’s why fast food, sugar, and smartphones are so addictive. What all of them do is trigger the release of large doses of dopamine into our bodies, making them irresistible. It is for this reason that so many of us keep staring at our smartphones in a cafe with friends, riding the bus, walking the dog, or even driving (with dire consequences).
What’s dopamine detox
For the record: we’re not talking about the rejection of all things pleasurable in life. We don’t need to turn into ascetics. Rather we can turn to simple techniques based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches coping skills for dealing with problems.
Here are two techniques Dr. Cameron Sepah, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco has to offer for an effective dopamine detox:
We remove the stimuli
We don’t always have the willpower to stop checking our emails and social media. What we can do instead is put the stimulus out of our immediate reach. In the case of a smartphone, we could put it in another room for some hours, or in our backpack when out and about, instead of always keeping it at arm’s length.
We allow the desire to subside
Dr. Sepah calls this practice “urge surfing.” We often feel an urge to open the fridge or check the latest social media feeds when stressed. It is at that point that we must learn to ride the wave: allow the urge to intensify, peak, and then subside just like an actual wave does. With regular practice, this technique can weaken the desire to seek activities that offer instant dopamine spikes.
The daily habits of natural detox
Clean homes don’t clean themselves. It takes a good cleaning schedule and housekeeping routine to keep it clean. The same is true for our bodies. And just as a clean house can make us feel better and put us in a better mood, so can a properly cleansed body.
5 healthy, daily habits for wellness
1. Eat a balanced diet
Healthy foods are packed with nutrients and help satisfy hunger, preventing us from impulsively eating junk food. The key is variety and eating more whole foods while avoiding foods that are processed, packaged, and high in saturated fat and sodium.
2. Drink plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water prevents dehydration, which can occur all year round, and not just during the sweltering days of summer. The adult body is made of about 60% water, so it makes sense that we drink enough water to help it function properly.
3. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise benefits both our body and our psychology. It tones the muscles, strengthens the heart, and fortifies the bones. Physical movement also lifts our mood and helps us sleep better.
4. Sleep well
Sleep benefits us by regulating our metabolism, mental health, and immune system. Science recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time to help our body adjust our internal biological clock.
5. Nurture our bodies
We learned the importance of brushing our teeth in childhood. But how well did we learn to take care of the rest of our body?
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A stress-free, natural detox isn’t hard or complicated.
We just need to make a daily habit of it.