“The Motivation Molecule”
What Does Dopamine Do?
It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration.
Dopamine is in charge of our pleasure-reward system.
It allows us to have feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria.
It gives us that “I did it!” lift when we accomplish what we set out to do.
It enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals.
But too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and even depressed.
How Does Dopamine Work in the Brain?
There are about 86 billion neurons in the human brain.
They communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key contributor to motivation, productivity, and focus.
Low dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss.
Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms
People low in dopamine lack a zest for life.
They exhibit low energy and motivation, and often rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day.
Many common symptoms of dopamine deficiency are similar to those of depression:
- low libido
- memory loss
- mood swings
- sleep problems
- lack of motivation
- inability to concentrate
- inability to feel pleasure
Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death.
Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost.
This can include use and abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, sex, video games, online porn, power, gambling, or excessive internet use.
How to Increase Dopamine Naturally
There are plenty of unhealthy ways to raise dopamine.
Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.
Boost Dopamine with Exercise
Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain.
Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide powerful mind-body benefits.
Benefits of Exercise:
slows down brain cell aging
boosts production of new brain cells
improves the flow of nutrients to the brain
baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors
the levels of the other “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine
the natural pain-killing endorphin’s, dopamine is responsible in part for “runner’s high”
Increase Dopamine with Mindfulness
The benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies.
Regular meditators experience enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation.
And there are numerous simple ways for beginners to learn meditation.
It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration.
Rewarding the brain with regular affirmations like, ‘Another job well down’ etc. releases dopamine.
Creative hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, and home repair — bring the brain into a meditative state.
These activities increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect against brain aging.
Listening to music can cause of release of dopamine.
Oddly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing — just the anticipation of listening can do that.
Dopamine Boosting Foods
Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine.
Eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production.
Here’s a list of foods that increase dopamine:
- green tea
- fava beans
- lima beans
- wheat germ
- sea vegetables
- all animal products
- green leafy vegetables
- sesame and pumpkin seeds
Foods high in natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut can also increase natural dopamine production.
Oddly, the health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of neurotransmitters.
An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine.
Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost (more drug-like than food-like).
There are supplements that can raise dopamine levels naturally.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It’s available in an isolated form as a supplement. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can boost levels of dopamine. Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine.
Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety.
One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine.
L-theanine is a component found in green tea.
It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA.
L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood.
You can get a dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day.
L-tyrosine — the precursor to dopamine — is available as a supplement.
We recommend taking acetyl-l-tyrosine — a more absorbable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain.
It can increase dopamine levels and improve memory, concentration, learning, and symptoms of ADHD.
Adapted by G Ross Clark
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