While there are many neurotransmitters that contribute to your overall state of well-being and happiness, including serotonin, oxytocin, GABA, and endorphins, dopamine can significantly contribute to and uplifted mood and a prosperous life. It’s one of over 100 neurotransmitters that help you function on a daily basis.
Dopamine is the neurochemical that is released as a neurological reward when we take a positive action. It is one of the most important hormones for reinforcing new, positive habits, including mental ones.
The Motivation Molecule
Importantly, low levels of dopamine are linked to self-doubt, lack of enthusiasm, and the will to change. This can make your internal motivation, also called intrinsic motivation low, therefore ruining your chances of making positive life changes. Without dopamine, you won’t be motivated to do much more than lay around all day. [i]
Studies of rats with low dopamine levels showed that they always look for the “lowest hanging fruit,” were apt to procrastinate, and will choose the “easier” option even if it doesn’t have as big of a reward. Since there are also studies proving that the most successful and happy people in life are able to delay gratification for smaller goals in order to obtain bigger ones – like bypassing a binge session of TV watching to instead opt for a quick run around the neighborhood, you can see why dopamine levels are extremely important to your overall health.
Dopamine also explains why after we achieve a really big goal we tend to have a dopamine hangover – a slump after achieving a new high. If we can learn how to keep our dopamine levels stable, and understand the neuropsychology of goal achievement, then we don’t have to feel like we’re on an emotional roller coaster when we achieve something great – but take a little break and get right back to working toward our goals and dreams.
The Many Benefits of Dopamine
With sufficient dopamine levels you can:
- More easily lose weight
- Stop self-limiting and self-destructive behaviors
- Build up positive actions and habits
- Resist impulsive behavior
- Improve your memory
- Feel happy, motivated and full of a zest for life
Natural Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels for More Motivation
To increase dopamine, there are some easy steps you can take, all of them 100% natural:
- Eat foods rich in tyrosine. Tyrosine is the precursor to the creation of dopamine in the body. Without enough tyrosine, sufficient dopamine levels can’t be reached. Plant-based foods rich in tyrosine include beans, bananas, and avocados as well as some whole grains like oats and wheat germ.[ii]
- Get plenty of quality sleep. If you don’t have sufficient dopamine levels, you won’t get good sleep. This can cause a feedback loop which causes your dopamine levels to further decline. Dopamine is essential to the regulation of our circadian rhythms or the sleep-wake cycle. [iii]
- Listen to uplifting music. Music is not only a universal language, it is also the language of the happy brain. When we listen to uplifting music, it causes a cascade of happy hormones to be dumped by neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Researchers at McGill University found that your dopamine levels can be raised a whopping 9% just by listening to upbeat or calming music for thirty minutes or more. [iv]
- Massage. Fascinatingly, massage can increase dopamine levels by up to 30% while lowering stress-boosting hormones like Cortisol. [v]
- Meditate. Studies suggest that just 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks of meditation can significantly increase dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and other happy hormones in your body will drastically reducing cortisol levels. [vi] [vii]
- Exercise. In a study published in Neurobiologial Discussions, it is stated, “Exercise leads to increased serum calcium levels, and the calcium is transported to the brain. This, in turn, enhances brain dopamine synthesis through a calmodulin-dependent system, and increased dopamine levels regulate various brain functions.” Get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily to boost dopamine and other helpful neurotransmitters. [viii]
- Take care of your gut health. There are billions of neurotransmitters lining your gastrointestinal tract. This is why the gut is often called the second brain.
- Practice deep breathing. When you practice breathing deeply instead of shallowly (the stress breath) you can increase both dopamine and serotonin levels almost instantly. Your oxygen levels also increase, helping to flush out toxins, energize your brain, and help you feel more motivated and stress-free so you can tackle just about anything that comes your way.
- Take health-boosting herbs . Herbs and teas like Ashwagandha, Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola, and decaffeinated green tea are super-chargers. These all create an adaptogenic effect, boosting dopamine and other “happy hormones” on the brain and body.
- Practice yoga nidra. For an absolutely amazing way to boost dopamine by up to 65%, try yoga nidra. This ancient, and little-known secret is also known as yogic sleep. It’s a hybrid of a visualized relaxation exercise and meditation practiced in Shavasana (corpse pose). [ix] It will also help you feel as restored in 30 – 120 minutes as a full night of sleep.
[i] Have Enough of These Three Neurotransmitters? l BrainMD Health. (2018, October 12). Retrieved from https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/three-neurotransmitters/
[ii] Whitbread, D. (2018, February 17). Top 10 Foods Highest in Tyrosine. Retrieved from https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-tyrosine-foods.php
[iii] Khanday, M. A., Yadav, R. K., & Mallick, B. N. (2016). Dopamine in REM Sleep Regulation. Dopamine and Sleep, 1-17. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-46437-4_1
[iv] Parkinson, C. (2011, January 9). Music ‘boosts good mood chemical’. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-12135590
[v] 33 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity – Endless Events. (2018, March 15). Retrieved from https://helloendless.com/10-ways-to-increase-dopamine-to-boost-your-productivity/
[vi] Kjaer, T. W., Bertelsen, C., Piccini, P., Brooks, D., Alving, J., & Lou, H. C. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Cognitive Brain Research, 13(2), 255-259. doi:10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00106-9
[vii] Krishnakumar, D., Hamblin, M. R., & Lakshmanan, S. (2015). Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety- A Modern Scientific Perspective. Ancient Science, 2(1), 13. doi:10.14259/as.v2i1.171
[viii] Sutoo, D., & Akiyama, K. (2003). Regulation of brain function by exercise. Neurobiology of Disease, 13(1), 1-14. doi:10.1016/s0969-9961(03)00030-5
[ix] Increase Dopamine Levels 65% Using This Little-Known Yoga Trick. (2018, March 20). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/yoga-nidra/