stimulant sober

Thinking about going ‘Stimulant Sober?’

Join me on my Seven Day Challenge…

By Susie Howell, Co-Director of Ibiza Retreats

On the first day of the year, I made the decision to go ‘Alcohol Sober’ for January, to honour the end of what had unexpectedly turned out to be a really tough year for me. I decided that what I needed was to embrace the New Year and the new decade with clarity and focus!  And I must admit, throughout the long month of January, this decision has helped me to feel clear, calm and newly positive; so much so, that I am considering extending my abstinence as long as it continues to feel good for me.

Of course, exercise, healthy diet and plenty of sleep are factors that are also contributing to my Feel Good factor, as part of my self-care routine and holistic wellbeing, but this month of abstinence has given me food for thought.

It’s not that I felt I was drinking too much necessarily,  although having an active toddler combined with all the availability of the Christmas indulgences, it felt more like I was finding myself reaching for, let’s call it, “a something” on a more regular basis.

During my January month of alcohol abstinence, I’ve now noticed that “the something” I reach for has switched to the odd coffee or a black tea. And whilst caffeine is not an alcoholic drink, or nicotine or drugs, it is still a stimulant or “a fix” of sorts that I am using to change something in this moment.

It feels like something to reward, distract, divert or suppress a feeling or emotion and which offers that sense of instant gratification. Life ‘stuff’ happens, it ebbs and it flows and there are the inevitable ups and downs along the road, but I wanted to explore this pattern a little more closely.

For me, it’s less about the stimulant itself, but more about the intention behind it.

And here’s the science bit. Dopamine is known as the feel-good neuro-transmitter. This is the chemical which the brain releases when we eat food we crave and have sex. It is even released when we receive positive messages or social media feedback or undertake in any generally pleasurable activities. It gives us feelings of satisfaction and it’s linked to indulgent and addictive behaviours and patterns. Just so dopamine doesn’t get a bad press – it’s very necessary in us as it’s responsible for motivation, mood, attention and it also helps regulate movement, learning and even emotional responses.

So these “somethings” or stimulants literally take you out of your body and into your head.

Dopamine is active in the frontal cortex of the brain as well as the limbic (or reptilian) brain which in turn, sets off our fight, flight or freeze response. It stimulates the sympathetic side of our autonomic nervous system. Once the fight, flight or freeze response if activated = less patience = reactivity = anxiety = for example, lack of trust. In every day life this translates as living our lives in a state of constant reactivity and flux. That’s not the goal we really want in our day to day life – and it’s ultimately very draining living in this constantly ‘hocked up’ state!

So I would like to offer you to take part in the Seven Day Challenge with me.

First up in the challenge is the removal of caffeine! I’d love to know how you get on and what you notice during the week. Any positive affects or any observations…? Let’s talk about it!

So what can you do instead? How can we increase our Dopamine levels naturally?

  • Your diet! Eat foods rich in Tyrosine. In order to make dopamine, your body needs tyrosine which can be found in almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs and beans for example
  • Exercise – only 30 mins a day can boost your mood exponentially. This doesn’t mean an expensive gym membership – just get outside! Walk, cycle, hike in nature, take a yoga or pilates class – just bring daily movement into your life!
  • Undertake a meditation practice. Meditation improves dopamine. Fact. Check out our Ibiza Retreats Soundcloud page for Guided Meditations by our very own Larah Davis, or check our my favourite app Insight Timer, which has the best content of all the online meditation apps.
  • Prioritise sleep. This is the time when our body can rest, repair, regulate and regenerate and those all-important neuro pathways are repaired and renewed.
  • Listen to calming music. It’s a cliché, but it works! You can try this in conjunction with a deeply restorative yoga poseViparita Karani  – or to put it simply, it’s just legs up the wall as the direct translation! This is a favourite of ours at Ibiza Retreats – and it really works! Lie down on the floor, facing a wall, on your back with your bum as close to the skirting board  / floor to ceiling join as possible. Shuffle your bottom up against the wall until it is as close to the wall as possible, with your legs up against the wall. And breathe…slowly, deeply, keeping your legs vertical, resting against the wall. This is a game-changing pose – it’s my ‘Go To’ restorative asana.
  • Add nutrients and supplements into your self-care routine. For example the nutrients  iron, niacin, folate, the B vitamin family and magnesium and the supplements Ashwaganda , curcuma, oregano extract and (caffeine free!) green tea have all been linked to increased dopamine production. You can have a blood test to determine if you are deficient in any of these. Add a high quality pro-biotic to keep the gut (the second brain) in tip-top health.

If you’d like to learn more about topics like this and how to make those big life changes, that will optimise your physical and emotional wellbeing join us in 2020 for one of our carefully curated yoga and holistic wellbeing retreats.

Here is a link to our full calendar … and we are offering 10% off for retreats booked before February 14th – which we are taking the liberty to re-frame as the day of…


You can email for more information, or call us if you want to chat to a friendly human voice for all the details on 0034 663 093 499.