For anyone who’s yet to discover the magic of dopamine, you’re in the right place. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. It’s a crucial chemical messenger in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. Also known as the “feel-good” hormone, it has the ability to boost your mood. Think about how you feel after listening to your go-to happy song, or when you’ve finished a workout. You feel pretty great, right? But it gets better! Dopamine also plays a big role in our ability to think, plan, focus, and engage in activities; it drives motivation. If dopamine levels are low, we may struggle with motivation or feel a little down. Thankfully, there are some incredible ways to increase dopamine levels naturally. So, let’s dive into 10 natural mood-boosting hacks that will drive us to positivity and success.
10 Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally
Great news for any sun worshippers, sunlight exposure boosts dopamine levels. Not only does it increase our dopamine receptors, but it also provides us with a dose of vitamin D. Actually, vitamin D is a dopamine booster in itself. So, take a walk in the sunshine or enjoy a meal outdoors each day to catch those mood-boosting rays. Beware of sun damage and burning by avoiding the midday sun and applying sun cream after about 20-30 minutes.
Meditation is an amazing tool to clear the mind, increase concentration, and feel calmer. What’s more, science tells us that the neurotransmitters, dopamine, and serotonin, when in balance result in optimum cognitive and physiological functionalities. Studies confirm that “this can be achieved when the brain is in a meditative state.” So, how can we achieve this meditative state? Quite literally, through breathing. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and let all other thoughts go as if they were clouds passing by. Netflix’s Headspace Guide to Meditation is a great guide for any newbies.
Exercise is incredible for our physical and mental health. It has the ability to keep you physically healthy, releases adrenaline, and boosts your mood. Cardio is a great type of exercise for increasing dopamine naturally. Anything like running, cycling, skipping, swimming, HIITs. Though you probably do more cardio than you think. Have you been on a walk or climbed the stairs today? These daily cardio rituals also get those endorphins flowing.
Listening to Music
Ever been lacking enthusiasm and then put an upbeat song on to instil you with excitement? Or how about when you’ve been lacking motivation to exercise and then one of your favourite songs come on and you feel empowered? If that’s the case then you’ve already experienced this incredible natural dopamine booster. It has been scientifically proven that listening to music you love increases the release of dopamine in the brain. So, what are you waiting for? Put your favourite song or playlist on for those feel-good vibes.
Protein isn’t just about muscle gain, it’s also an essential mood regulator. The amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine produce dopamine. The good news is that they are both obtained from protein. As the body doesn’t produce these amino acids, a healthy intake of protein will increase dopamine naturally. Bananas, almonds, beans, and yogurts among other foods are particularly good at producing these amino acids. Check out this high-protein recipe collection if you’re in need of some inspo.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Not only does it provide us with energy for the day, it also refreshes the neurotransmitters, boosting the release of dopamine. In order to feel refreshed and alert, get the doctor recommended 7 – 9 hours. When sleep-deprived, dopamine sensitivity in the brain is reduced. Feel revitalised and reap productivity by getting yourself a good night’s sleep.
Cut Down on Sugar
Sugar is a common go-to for a lot of us when we’re feeling down, right? But science has proved that we should be doing the opposite. Though sugar provides us with a short-lived high, it has a negative drug-like effect that leaves us craving more. Excess sugar disrupts dopamine levels, and impairs our self-control and cognitive skills. What does this mean? That we may struggle with poor memory, and low attention span. Studies have also found that higher sugar consumption is associated with depression. Don’t deprive yourself of dopamine. Decrease your sugar intake to function optimally, and let those feel-good neurotransmitters flow. Satisfy your sweet cravings with natural sources of sugar in fresh fruits and ditch refined sugar. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
This may be hard to hear for any coffee lovers out there. Much like sugar, caffeine only offers us a temporary energy boost. After the initial caffeine kick, dopamine levels in the body decrease. The good news is that we don’t have to ditch coffee entirely. Switch over to decaf if you want to increase dopamine naturally.
Decrease Stress Levels
So, you’ve probably heard that stress is detrimental to our health. Stress takes a toll on our health and wellbeing. Among other consequences, high stress levels are correlated with a dopamine deficiency. Stress can cause physical symptoms like headaches, a bad stomach, high blood pressure, and sleep issues. It can also cause emotional issues including anxiety, depression, and worry. Of course, we can’t always control our circumstances and there will be moments in which we struggle with stress. For this reason, experiment with ways to deal with stress. Some common calming techniques are taking a walk, stretching, breath work, a stress ball, or aromatherapy. Find what works best for you to calm stress and boost your mood.
Complete a Task
We’ve all experienced the wonderous joy of ticking off a task from our to-do list, right? What better way to boost your mood than through completing a task! When we recognise a task as completed, our brain naturally releases dopamine. Not only are you acing productivity, but you also feel good for it. But wait for it, it gets better… After the completion of a task, you get a motivation drive that enables you to carry on being productive throughout the day. Just be sure to use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise the tasks that will drive you towards your long-term goals.
So, there we have it, 10 ways to boost your mood and motivation levels. Dopamine is a wonderful neurotransmitter that assists us in our cognitive abilities, attention span, and leaves us feeling good. Increase dopamine naturally by listening to music, catching some rays, getting active, meditating, or completing a task. Some daily musts include getting enough sleep, decreasing stress, eating enough protein, and cutting back on sugar and caffeine. What’s your go-to dopamine booster?