Our brain releases a neurotransmitter, dopamine, which is crucial for numerous essential bodily functions and helps control the brain‘s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine is great for the following body functions:
- Regulating movement
- Controlling the center of pleasure and reward in the brain
- Improving the cognitive functions (knowledge, attention, memory, decision-making, evaluation, problem solving)
- Regulating the secretion of prolactin
Since it is extremely important for our wellbeing and happiness, the reduced levels of dopamine lead to various health issues, such as depression, sadness, negativity and various emotional troubles.
One of my favorite comedians, Louis CK, has a joke about how “everything is amazing right now and nobody’s happy.” He told this story about a new piece of technology:
I was on an airplane and there was high-speed internet on the airplane—that’s the newest thing that I know exists. And I’m sitting on the plane and they go “open up your laptop, you can go on the internet.” And it’s fast and I’m watching YouTube clips—it’s amaz[ing]—I’m in an airplane!” And then it breaks down, and they apologize the internet’s not working. The guy next to me goes “phff, this is bulls%$^!” Like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only ten seconds ago.
Fortunately, there are 10 effective ways to raise the dopamine levels in the body, without using medications:
The exercise of every kind raises the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphin. Regular exercise provides happiness, strengthens the body, reduces stress.
Serotonin, which is produced by long-term cardio exercise, decreases depression and hostility, and improves agreeable social behavior. Dopamine improves your mood and long-term memory. It stimulates highly pleasurable feelings in the brain and could contribute to what is called “runners high.”
Cardio exercise produces increased serotonin levels when done to the point of physical and possibly mental fatigue, explained by J.M. Davis, et al., in an article for the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”
Engage in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes five days a week. The National Institutes of Health explains that exercise has been found consistently in several studies to improve mood. It adds that this is likely a result of improved functioning of serotonin in the brain. Regular exercise increases the amount of tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin. This effect continues on after the exercise has been completed, suggesting that serotonin levels, too, remain increased in the brain.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and even shopping, provide an instant pleasure, but it is not a permanent solution. Additions only temporarily satisfy our needs.
Moreover, addictions alter our lifestyle in favor of the source of the addiction, and it is a wicked cycle. Therefore, you should try and lower the risk of developing addictions, enjoy life, and find things that provide deeper calmness and happiness. Also, it is of great importance to work a job you enjoy.
“Many people get addicted to something because it gives them some kind of instant gratification – drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, shopping, and other addictive behaviors actually have the opposite effect on dopamine levels in the long-term. In essence, when we get overly addicted to something, the ‘reward circuitry’ of our brain kicks into overdrive and we crave the ‘quick hit.’ This is not a sustainable solution for dopamine production, which can and should be done naturally.”
What’s missing here is the fact that addiction is quite often a result of low dopamine, meaning addiction is more of an attempt to fix an already existing problem. In essence, “the underpinning of your addictive personality is a lack of fulfillment from within, with a resulting urge to achieve fulfillment through substances, objects, or events that relieve the inevitable pain – for a while.” (source)
Make sure you regularly detoxify your system, as the accumulation of toxins and bacteria in the body prevents the dopamine production and weakens the immunity.
“As miraculous as our bodies are, we do accumulate toxins and bacteria that is bad for us. Endotoxins are the kind that can cause our immune systems to get out of whack, and it also constrains the production of dopamine. Here are a couple tips for helping cleanse the gut of endotoxins: eat fermented food, get enough sleep, and resist the urge to indulge in fatty or sugary foods.”
Whenever you’re not fulfilled in your life, you run the risk of overindulging in sugary and sweet foods in an attempt to temporarily fulfill yourself. However, if you find fulfillment through the challenge and support of your day, you’re more likely to eat for the tasks you’re doing instead of eating just to feel good.
4. Increase Tyrosine
Tyrosine is one of the 22 essential amino acids used for the creation of proteins. It is actually the most important chemical for the dopamine production of dopamine.
Besides dopamine, it also has the potential to elevate norepinephrine levels. There’s a large list of foods that increase Tyrosine, including: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Beef, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, Eggs, Green Tea, Watermelon, Yogurt.
Dopamine levels are also increased through listening to music, even though it may be short-term. Therefore, use music as a common way to raise dopamine levels.
“Do you ever wonder why music makes you happy? I mean, we can be in the dumps one moment but once we put on our favorite jam, we’re swaying and shaking away…feeling pretty good about ourselves too! The reason for this is that listening to music increases dopamine levels. In fact, scientists say that listening to music has the same effect as eating our favorite foods or watching our favorite T.V. show. So, when you’re feeling down, throw on some of your favorite tunes and jam out!”
Listening to music can increase dopamine levels temporarily, but what we’re really looking for is a lasting fulfillment feeling so you can make your daily life enjoyable and productive for your goals. Also, popular music these days is often manufactured in such a way as to prey on your brain’s chemical dependency, making much of music a form of substance addiction.
However, music has been a part of human history since as far as we can see, so its influence on our brain is greatly appreciated. In fact, one of the greatest cultural appreciations throughout history has been music. So, listen to music, but just make sure it’s not the only source of dopamine in your life.
6. Organize your life
The levels of dopamine are raised in the case of organized small daily tasks, even though they are hard at times. You should write your tasks down on a piece of paper, and check them off. In this way, you will be satisfied as you note that you finish them one by one.
The Principles of Self-Management state that if a task represents a change of 25% (or bigger change) in the routine, you will feel unable to finish it, and often ends up with a self-sabotage or giving up. Y
If the task changes 10% of your routine, you will succeed to complete it, as you will believe it is small. Therefore, balance tasks to be 10 and 25% of new behaviors, in order to try new and challenging things, but still not too difficult to complete.
The levels of dopamine in the brain are also elevated with a creative activity. This will also keep you focused. You do not need to become a world-known artist but try dancing, singing, writing, sculpturing, painting, drawing, cooking, knitting, making crafts, and auto repair, and you will feel much better right away. Here you can select anything that sounds interesting (no fancy skills or special experience required!).
8. Get a Streak Going
In this sense, “streak” will mean a visual reminder of the number of times in a row you do something. This is similar to organizing the tasks, and accomplishing them. This will raise the levels of dopamine, and make you happier and satisfied. You should use a calendar, written your goals, and plan when to complete them. As soon as you finish the task, mark it off on your calendar. Yet, the drawback of the ‘streak’ is routine, so you should find a way to enhance the performance.
Dopamine levels can also be raised through supplementation, such as:
- Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, effectively increases dopamine in the brain.
- Ginkgo Biloba has a potential to raise dopamine levels as well.
- Acetyl-l-tyrosine is a building block of dopamine, so a healthy dose of it supports the production of dopamine in the brain.
- L-theanine increases numerous neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Green tea is a rich source of l-theanine.
Meditation raises the levels of dopamine in a different way that cardio exercises. It improves your mood, creates mental energy, and relaxes the mind. Meditation is an efficient way to reduce stress on a daily basis.
“As with exercise, we are discovering more and more benefits to meditation. We are again adding to the list. As we discussed, the human brain is susceptible to a variety of addictions. One other addictive habit that we have is overthinking. In fact, some Buddhists have a phrase for this addiction: ‘monkey mind.’
Overthinking is not merely a distracting habit, it’s also a genuine compulsion that leaves us in a perplexing state, while also having a negative effect on our spiritual development. However, scientists are finally catching up to what Buddhists have known for thousands of years: meditation and mindfulness are essential to a healthy mind.”