Note: The following is a transcription of journal entries written during a 24 hour dopamine fast/digital detox where all forms of technology were powered off, and external stimulation kept to a minimum.
0908: I’ve become more aware of my surroundings. Either that or people are extra loud today. I’ve forgotten how to write properly. Not that I ever had great handwriting to begin with. I should use part of today to practice. My first cravings were not for food but technology so that I could connect with the world. I think that says a lot about where our culture is and how addicted we’ve become to our digital lives. My intuition tells me I should pass the time with meditation next, but I’m not sure if I’ve sufficiently cleared my mind yet. Perhaps I should start with some chores instead. I’m less concerned not with the dopamine aspect of this fast, if I feel any reward for essential activities, so be it. The more important aspect is the digital detox, which I fully intend on sticking with. Even the refrigerator sounds louder now. I’ll keep the blinds closed for the time being.
1056: Most of the withdrawal symptoms have gotten better. I did some chores, then worked on my handwriting a bit. Still much work left in that department, obviously. My worst letters are a, c, e, g, h, m, n, p, q, s, and w. I was surprised by how much I could improve alphabet writing with just some focused effort. It’s more about the willingness to change than the actual effort, though. I also need to work on lighter pressure to reduce the physical effort of writing. My cravings are now mostly to look up things - definitions, articles, dates. I made my own calendar to help with that last one, it seemed an appropriate exercise. I know walks are allowed per the protocols, but I’m still limiting my exposure to stimulation. In the same vein, I’m keeping the shades drawn. I want to focus internally for now. Stay in my own head and see where my thoughts take me.
1316: If it’s true that inner peace/serenity is the stillness that comes from not worrying or even thinking about anything, then it would seem this ability develops in multiple phases. At first, there is a complete lack of peace, and one’s thoughts are constantly racing. This has been made worse by the constant stream of useless information that is modern life. Those with enough willpower learn to push these thoughts into their subconscious, which is really a form of procrastination of thinking. These concerns are not let go because implicit in the deferring is they will return, a self-fulfilling prophecy. It takes far more discipline to truly let things go and have nature run her course. Only in this state of mind is the real clutter removed. We would be wise to keep the temples of our minds free of future mess. And don’t worry - if something is important, it will return to your attention when the time is right.
1455: The brain makes such peculiar associations. A cherished letter from a dear friend reminds of a tax form expected in the mail soon. Once thoughts turn to taxes, there is little joy left. Conversely, the scent of a meal cooking reminds you of time shared with friends over dinner. Anything can set this process off. A stranger’s laugh can remind you of a joke forgotten. A scene in a movie prompts another to finish a chore neglected. That these connections are made should not surprise, but delight, for these are the moments worth appreciating. The power of association is strengthened by emotions, those strange things that make life worth living. We fight so much to tame our more animal reactions that we compress our experiences into a tiny ball of apathy. The best life is lived, embracing a full range of experiences available. The trick is to enjoy the ride and make good connections.
1719: The easiest part is making a list of what one should care about. Entire libraries could be filled with books cataloging the many virtues in life. There’s almost no cost for making such wishes. Harder is the task of listing our current cares. It’s common to fool yourself into thinking this list is far shorter than reality. One highly omitted item is what others think of us. Our egos are oft far too fragile to admit how much they rely on validation from others for support. The most difficult task is to stop caring about these things not in the former set but in the latter. Letting go will not be a trivial matter, as are most things in life worth doing. Once one has made the proper room in their life for the things that truly matter, a quite rewarding possibility is enabled. Learn how to properly care for that which matters most, and you have unlocked the full potential for living.
1857: The hardest person to look at is yourself. You may catch a glance of your reflection on occasion, but rarely do we stare at our mirror image long enough to reflect. We are naturally our own harshest critics and focus far too much on our flaws. The worst of this isn’t our blemishes or our wrinkles. We know all the times and the ways we haven’t lived up to our standards, or worse, the standards of others. Pimples can be covered with makeup, but a stain on our soul is not so readily hidden. Our deepest and darkest secrets haunt us in ways far worse than the grudges against our worst enemies. The best remedy would be not to form such thoughts in the first place. Alas, we already own them and must make the best of our situation. Living with ourselves, not in spite of what we’ve done, but because of it. Take a good look and if you don’t like what you see, learn to love it.
2120: I ended my day by taking a leisurely stroll around downtown. It felt so weird at first, going around town without my watch or phone with me. The feeling morphed from strange to liberating. Since I had no watch and came across zero public clocks, I had no schedule to keep or pace to set. I swear banks used to have clocks on them. This new freedom had me meandering and stopping as I pleased. It’s entirely possible I’ll make this untethered exercise a regular event. Occasional hunger joined me on my walk, made more infrequent by the limited amount of restaurants still in business. Establishments where I’ve enjoyed cuisine with friends and family are now gone. Some will likely never return. At least my hunger is gone for now. The body appears to learn from fasting not to expect food soon and turns this impulse off. Per the rules, I could resume my digital life soon, but I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to turn my electronics back on.