I had turned myself into a machine, repeating the same motions every day in the same four walls.ILLUSTRATION /AUDREY LIM - INSTAGRAM @YERDUE

I tend to be a fan of strange experiments done with the aim of increasing one’s sense of well-being, albeit some may say through the most haphazard means possible. I have fasted for days, not eaten carbohydrates for half a year, exercised multiple times a day for weeks on end and religiously taken cold showers through many winters. Nevertheless, this had not prepared me for the level of acute discomfort that I would feel when doing my next experiment: doing absolutely nothing for a whole day.

I found myself becoming digitally overwhelmed during the pandemic and I decided I needed a break. Ironically, within my YouTube recommendations I found a chance to get away from it all with a “dopamine detox”. The main premise of a dopamine detox is to deal with habitual overstimulation. We procrastinate on our most important tasks through social media, refreshing the news incessantly, or clicking refresh on obscure searches for Soviet memorabilia on eBay (yes, we all do that). Poorly named, a dopamine detox involves abstaining from those activities which are repeated and reinforced through dopamine, a break from constant stimulation. I should be clear: a dopamine detox has almost zero scientific grounding, but that fact just spoils the fun of a good story. I decided upon one 24-hour period with meditation and sitting being the only activities allowed and, something I added of my own accord, no ability to tell what time it is. I hid my watch and ceremoniously covered the clocks on the walls with tea towels. For context, I isolated myself in the Danish countryside alone.

“No rush, no electronics, no zoom meetings; this really is a natural way of life”

I sit down with a glass of water and my day begins. I hesitate to light a fire, lest I acquire too much dopamine, but after some thinking I decide that as I don’t constantly scroll through fireplaces, I’ll allow it. What to do now? That’s a good question. I have no idea what time it is; I attempt to find the sun as a reference, but the clouds are colluding against me and it is a perfectly overcast day. No luck there. Nevertheless, no rush, no electronics, no zoom meetings; this really is a natural way of life, I say to myself reassuringly, taking up my natural spot in my IKEA beanbag. The first two hours, by my estimation at least, have passed with no problems.

After what seems like an eternity, I conclude it must be the late afternoon now. I look out of the window. Across the street is a rural dentist clinic and I can see dentists, hard at work, leaning over their patients. I don’t think much of it - in Denmark, working hours are from 9 to around 5, with two hours for cake and a dance around the Danish flag. I position myself at a windowsill seat ready for sundown. Eventually, the boredom really hits. The incessant pull of the internet starts tugging at my mind, somewhere in the back. I look up. The sun has barely moved. At this time of year, the sunset is near 10 pm. I take myself away from the window to spare myself the torture.

My mind wanders and I glance through a small window - finally the sun looks as though it is on its way down. I decide in a rush of excitement to brush my teeth and wash my face after the hard toils of the day. I take one final look out of the window. The dentist’s chairs across the road are still occupied. My heart drops. My mind goes back to the working hours of Denmark. I take a deep breath and resume my sitting position, this time with a view of the sunset through the window.

“Losing vast spans of time to digital distractions is not a way I would like to live and, as I know now, nor is sitting doing nothing for 24 hours.”

I go to the window to check my dentist clock. Still occupied. I put another log on the fire, and another, and another, and another and another. I decide that today is all that there is and ever will be. What has stopped the celestial path of the sun? Suddenly, to my surprise, the light outside begins to dim. From the number of logs burned, I must have actually brushed my teeth at around 4pm! I can’t take this nonsense any longer. I remove the tea towel draped over a nearby clock, a task requiring such a serious effort that I find myself empathising with King Arthur facing the sword in the stone. ’20:40’ blinks back at me. I really did get ready for bed at 4 pm, I really can’t tell the time, and I really am detoxed of all human spirit. I head to bed to try and get this day to finish, and I lie there waiting for the eternal sun to set. Drifting into a light sleep, I dream of the sun rising twice on the same day. The day is finally over.


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Mountain View

I meditated for three months: it changed my life

During the lockdowns, I found myself escaping the lack of physical freedom by overusing my digital devices and artificially imposing a constant busyness to feel productive. I had turned myself into a machine, repeating the same motions every day in the same four walls. This experience of doing nothing has shown me how much time I really do have, with an eternity accessible to me every day. My conclusion was that I should disconnect more often; perhaps on Saturday mornings, I will disconnect from the internet until lunchtime and meet a friend for brunch or take a long walk. Losing vast spans of time to digital distractions is not a way I would like to live and, as I know now, nor is sitting doing nothing for 24 hours. I also realised I should not take my activities for granted - though sometimes overstimulating and overdone, they do eat up my eternity, so that the sun can keep moving.