Try a dopamine detox

ADHD Business Tips - Try a dopamine detox to reset your focus

Entrepreneurs are known for being energetic, creative, and restless – always looking for the next big idea or opportunity. But for those of us with ADHD, these traits can be doubly amplified, making it difficult to focus and stay on task. The persistent novelty-seeking and impulsivity of ADHD can lead to us being distracted by every little notification, email, or fleeting thought. This can make it challenging to stick to a schedule or see projects through to completion.

For a few years now I’ve heard the term “dopamine detox” around the traps and while it’s had me curious, I hadn’t taken the time to learn more about this strategy until more recently when I was listening the blinks for a book called Dopamine Nation by neuroscientist Anna Lembke. It turns out that this is a tactic that can help us regain focus and control so we can get more of the important stuff done at work.

Here’s what a dopamine detox is, why it works, and how to try it for yourself.

What is a dopamine detox?

Dopamine is the “feel good” neurotransmitter in our brains that motivates us to seek rewards. We get little hits of dopamine when we eat sugary foods, have sex, earn money, or get notifications on our phones. For those of us with ADHD, dopamine can spike more easily and frequently, leading to distractibility.

A dopamine detox involves temporarily limiting behaviours that trigger those frequent dopamine spikes. The goal is to “reset” the brain’s baseline dopamine levels so that everyday tasks start to feel rewarding again. It allows us to become less reactive to stimuli and as a result, be more focused.

Why it works

Most entrepreneurs with ADHD will find themselves self-medicating with dopamine spikes throughout their workday. We might constantly check emails, social media, or online shopping sites for little hits of stimulation. This makes it hard to stay on task or work steadily without being distracted, especially at times when we aren’t 100% clear on what we should be doing.

A short dopamine fast can break this cycle of seeking stimulation and reward. By taking away the addictive dopamine-triggering behaviours, our brain can learn to feel content and focused without them. Studies show that activities like meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature can all naturally raise baseline dopamine levels as well.

With our brains rebalanced, activities necessary for running a business, such as planning, strategising, and working through problems, can start to feel interesting again. A detox can pave the way to the “boring” stuff becoming engaging once more.

In the longer term one of the most significant advantages to mini resets like this is the change in how we see ourselves and our ability to focus on what we value most. From changing what we believe about ourselves and what we’re capable of to the increase in self-trust, the bigger picture benefits can be huge.

Tips for a Successful Dopamine Detox

If you want to try a dopamine detox for yourself, here are some tips for success:

1. Start small: Don’t go cold turkey if you’re heavily reliant on dopamine-spiking behaviours. Try a half-day detox once a week and build up from there if you find it effective.

2. Remove temptations: Delete distracting apps off your phone and clear your workspace of clutter. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Schedule productive activities: Fill time normally spent scrolling with walks, reading, planning, or cleaning. Keep dopamine levels stable with healthy habits.

4. Tell someone: Share your detox plan with a friend, partner, or coach. They can support you and keep you accountable, even better if they can hang out with you while you’re white-knuckling it. 😉

5. Notice when you crave dopamine: When you feel an itch to check your notifications, that’s a cue to get up and take a break. Do your very best to wait out the urge.

6. Reflect afterward: Note how your detox went. What felt hard? What felt beneficial? Adjust your plan accordingly.


Start a mini dopamine detox by deleting the social media apps from your phone for one hour and resisting the urge to re-download or check them on your desktop. Use that time for focused work, taking a walk, reading, or having an in-person conversation. Even this short experiment in limiting dopamine-spiking behaviours can offer a little reset and give you a taste of how much more focused and clear-headed you might feel without constant distraction.

A dopamine detox requires some willpower, especially for us ADHDers drawn to stimulation. But sticking it out can provide huge benefits in terms of focus, drive, and inner calm. With practice, we can start to break free of dopamine’s siren call and succeed in business on our own sustained merits. Just take it one detox at a time.

If you’d like to read more about dopamine fasting, check out the resources below:

Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke – A neuroscientist explores the science behind dopamine addiction and how to reset your brain’s reward system.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – Philosophies and tips for limiting digital distraction.

The ‘Dopamine Detox’ Is Having a Moment by Haley Weiss for Time –  Know what to expect and have realistic expectations of a dopamine fast.

Is Dopamine Fasting a Way to Fix Your Brain or a Silicon Valley Fad? by Healthline – Overview of the science of dopamine fasts.

Will you try it? If you do I’d love to know how you go!

I’ll see you next week!

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