Leave your phone on the line when you wake up and you will have a happier and more productive day. That’s the idea behind the latest TikTok trend of the “Low-Dopamine Morning Routine.” Videos for and about #lowdopaminemornings have amassed over two million views on the videos app, with users documenting their experiences and sharing what fills, if not aimlessly, their mornings.
Essentially, starting your day with a scroll on your phone will flood your brain with dopamine, and it will spend the rest of the day chasing the same high. With a low dopamine morning routine, you avoid your phone for the first hour in the morning, opting instead for lower-impact activities like reading, journaling, or meditation. Some people also like to tick off chores.
TikTok user Meredith (@naptown_thrifts) describes her morning routine as the “ultimate act of self-care” she does for herself every day. Meredith’s video has been viewed nearly a million times, with similar content also garnering a lot of looks. Many YouTubers and viewers have said that the concept of low dopamine mornings has helped them with conditions like ADHD or seasonal affective disorder.
I went out to test this theory and found myself having low dopamine levels in the mornings. Coffee in hand – and rather not the phone – this is how my week begins:
I wake up to my alarm clock, which unfortunately is on my phone, but I hit stop and try to ignore any on-screen notifications throughout the night. One of the perks of wearing glasses is that I can’t really see when I wake up, which takes away from the thrill of aimlessly scrolling when my glasses aren’t on. I’ll note that this hasn’t stopped me in the past (if that’s not indicative of a habit problem, I don’t know what is).
I suddenly remember posting an Instagram the night before and my hand reaches for my phone to check likes etc. But of course that would turn into a scroll and then my mission would have failed.
So what now… I’ll make the bed.
On my walk before work, I find myself instinctively reaching for my phone in my pocket two or three times, and I’m struck by how sad that is. On a normal morning I would probably be on Instagram ignoring my surroundings. I’ll allow myself a brief smugness that I’m not going to do that this morning.
I definitely feel awake and productive. I read a few pages of a book at breakfast and then immediately get to work, which means that as early as 10 am I feel a sense of accomplishment that has nothing to do with my phone. I open WhatsApp on my laptop so I don’t miss any messages, even if my phone is across the room.
Around 12 o’clock I start to scroll. Vicky Phelan has just passed away and social media has been ablaze with tributes to the incredible activist. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole, and I’m starting to get that familiar feeling of wasting time but getting little. My morning productivity has slipped, but I promise myself I’ll start fresh after lunch.
I’m in the office today which makes me feel like I have a mission and therefore not wasting time browsing my phone. When my alarm goes off, I hit play on a podcast to keep it playing in the background while I get ready.
I read a chapter in a book at breakfast and then walk out the door. I definitely feel ready to take on the day and excited to see what I’ll see when I finally look at my phone. Even just mentally, I feel like I have a little bit of time to myself, something that catching up on the internet has never given me.
One of the things I struggle a bit with is knowing which ways of using the phone are beneficial and which aren’t. I tend not to look at my phone at all as it takes away the temptation to open another app, but then I’m never sure if I should reply to messages.
I felt really good today, and it’s almost like I felt like I “deserved” a lunchtime Instagram check instead of maxing out the content early on. I think especially in the mornings I feel a lot more present and forgiving but in a way that leaves no residual debt.
A new challenge arose today. I woke up much earlier this morning which meant I had more time to fill in. Normally I would have laid in bed and watched tons of TikToks, but not this week! I got up and enjoyed the quiet pottering at breakfast.
I’ll say it felt really good, and maybe I’m a broken record, but in a way that just wouldn’t have been the same if I got up early but scrolled. I found that I was really aware of things like what I was eating and how, and I felt very at peace with myself and the stillness. I usually fill silent gaps in my day with background noise, whether it’s video, music, or something else.
The beauty of making this my regular routine is that at this time of the week it doesn’t feel so automatic to reach for my phone. I’m groggy this morning and don’t feel like getting out of bed yet, but if I’m not accessing apps or social media on my phone I have little reason to stay there and so I get up to start my day . It seems to me that this is certainly one of the productivity effects of the morning routine – I form positive productive habits first thing in the morning.
Much like the day before, it now feels like this is my new normal. I wake up, turn off the alarm clock and jump out of bed. Washing my face right away keeps my hands busy. At the end of the week I notice that my mood has improved as well. When I spend less time seeing what everyone else is doing, I can focus more on myself and my feelings. I don’t open Instagram and meet up with my peers for a morning run. I don’t watch TikToks about “high-calorie, high-fiber, sugar-free breakfast ideas” that put my toast to shame. Instead, I am just… the being, with little to no outside influence, and that’s really liberating.
After spending the week sticking to the low dopamine morning tasks, I will say that I found the theory was confirmed and both my productivity and mood improved. But I wanted to make sure it was scientifically sound, so I talked to psychiatrist Dr. spoken to Anna Lembke.
Her book Dopamine nation: finding balance in the age of indulgence explores how we get our fix and how it can affect us, and goes deeper into the idea of dopamine fasting.
according to dr Lembke is starting the day with a scroll on your phone “the equivalent of an ice cream or a beer for breakfast” because the phone is a drug that increases dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway. “To cope with this surge in dopamine, the brain downregulates dopamine transmission, especially with repeated use, and pretty soon we find ourselves in a state of dopamine deficiency, which is anhedonia, the inability to enjoy anything,” she says.
And TikTok’s latest trend isn’t unfounded, says Dr. Lembke when it comes to the proposed science behind it, adding, “The more we can limit and rewrite our dopamine spikes, the more likely we are to maintain a healthy mood state.”
If you find yourself chained to your phone every morning, try cutting back on usage for the first hour after waking up and see how the way you go about your day changes. As TikTok trends go, it’s not as fun as learning the new dance that’s doing the rounds, but in my experience it’s infinitely more beneficial.
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/the-low-dopamine-morning-is-tik-toks-latest-health-obsession-heres-what-happened-when-i-tried-to-live-by-it-for-a-week-42245490.html The “low dopamine morning” is Tik Tok’s latest health obsession. Here’s what happened when I tried to live with it for a week