Ah, dopamine – the brain’s control chemical for rewards, pleasure, motivation, and sensation-seeking. When you experience pleasure, your brain is dosing itself with dopamine. Eating chocolate cake, having sex, doing drugs, riding roller coasters, and dancing all increase dopamine production in your brain. Dopamine is our brain’s motivator, and if you’ve been wondering how to motivate yourself lately, low dopamine levels could be to blame.
For some people, dopamine levels are lower than others. People can deplete their dopamine reserves through addiction and long-term drug use. Some people’s brains just require more dopamine than others, and the neurotransmitter has been implicated in various conditions including ADHD, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.
When is the last time you felt a zest for life? Energized and alive? Certain of how to motivate yourself? Symptoms of low dopamine levels include feeling apathetic, joyless, and tired. You may have trouble getting going in the morning, or focusing on your goals. You might crave sugar and caffeine, and you might be relying on other not-so-healthy stimulants to increase your energy.
People with ADHD are low in dopamine levels, and they often indulge in sensation-seeking behaviors that can ultimately be self-destructive. Many addictions stem from the brain’s search for more dopamine, including addictions to the internet, gambling, shopping, sex, alcohol, and anything else. ADHD medications provide artificial stimulation via pharmaceuticals so that the brain can stop searching for a boost. But many people prefer natural alternatives.
If you think your dopamine levels are low, use these ideas to boost your brain’s natural production of this crucial neurotransmitter.
How to Increase Dopamine Naturally
- Make Checklists of Small Tasks. Organizing and finishing tasks increases your dopamine, whether they are great or small. So don’t save that to-do list for major projects. Write down your daily tasks and check them off one by one. So satisfying!
- Be Creative. Activating a brain state of artistic “flow” requires dopamine, and prompts your brain to produce it. Write, draw, cook, sing, dance, paint – find what you love to create and do it on a daily basis.
- Eat Foods Rich in Tyrosine. Considered the building block of dopamine, tyrosine is an amino acid. You’ll find it in chocolate (yes!), almonds, bananas, avocados, coffee, eggs, watermelon, yogurt, green tea, chicken, and beef.
- Get on a Roll. Don’t just keep track of your completed tasks daily. Get a streak going, and use a month-long calendar page to keep track of it. Instead of sinking into a boring daily routine, you’ll be participating in a fun game. How many days in a row can you make your bed? Take your vitamins? Go for a walk? Every time you check off another day, your dopamine levels will surge.
- Exercise. Add “increased dopamine levels” to the endless list of reasons to exercise. Breaking a sweat boosts multiple neurotransmitters, and even short bursts of exercise can give you a little dose. The best exercise of all to increase dopamine? Dancing. Combining body movement to music that you love is a sure fire way to feel motivated.
Happy woman image via Shutterstock