That’s Dope! How to Naturally Increase Dopamine Levels
Dopamine is great. It’s part of your brain’s reward system.
This means that pleasurable activities will increase your dopamine level.
However, this presents a problem…
Dopamine is the strongest factor in psychological addiction. When you’re looking to increase dopamine levels it’s all about balance.
For example, winning while gambling, smoking, binge watching television, and having that extra cup of coffee in the morning all flood your brain with dopamine.
The problem with this is also that the more you repeat the activity, the less dopamine will be released.
I’ve been there though, I understand how easy it is to fall into something that makes you feel good for the moment, and then wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.
An extra cup of coffee is great when you need it. I’ve felt tired and out of it and then had that extra sip.
Before I knew it, I was hooked. Coffee stopped working for me!
I helped myself a lot by reading up on everything and learning to use it to my advantage.
I learnt that exactly the same occurs with learning skills and improving your day to day life!
Listen to your brain! It’ll want more and more dopamine and if you follow some of these activities, you’ll be able to give it exactly what it wants.
But first, how do you know if you’re low on dopamine and what does it actually do?
To put it simply: dopamine makes you happy and feeling fulfilled and rewarded.
It’s a neurotransmitter, meaning that it communicates with other chemicals in the brain.
This means that a flood of dopamine will leave you feeling happy and refreshed, because your brain will light up like a Christmas tree!
So, on the flip side, if you’re feeling down, tired, unable to sleep, unmotivated, having a low libido, or any combination of these, you’re probably not getting enough dopamine.
It may be enough to cause you to feel anxious or depressed.
This is when it’s most tempting to reach for whatever will make you feel better for the moment.
Stop and slow down!
Before you simply pleasure seek there is a right and a wrong way of doing it. Start small and work your way up. Don’t seek out things that might be harmful to you in the long run.
And if you’re not one to take things slow, go to a theme park!
Get some adrenaline and some dopamine running through your body.
Roller Coasters are one of the safest ways to get a highly adrenaline fueled thrill! I love riding the big ones and screaming out all of the tension that’s been built up!
But all in all, there are healthy coping mechanisms. Things that’ll make you feel better and brighter. We have them here.
Improving Your Diet
Here’s a big one. Some foods naturally increase dopamine levels. Some naturally decrease it. What you’re putting into your body is very important.
First of all, balance is key.
It’s good to eat some of these foods and they will boost your dopamine levels but try to not only eat one of these foods.
This still works if you’re vegetarian or vegan as there’s more than enough variety here to choose from that includes non-meat and non-animal products.
Good foods: Animal products, apples, avocados, bananas, beans, beats, chocolate (my favorite if I’m a little down), coffee (be careful with this one), leafy vegetables, green tea, nuts, oats, natural oils, oregano, peanuts, rosemary, seaweed, sesame/pumpkin seeds, soy products, turmeric, watermelon and wheat.
You see, there’s more than one meal in there! Anyone can make themselves a stir fry with some of these with some sesame toast and seaweed! It’s good for the soul.
Bad foods: saturated fats, sweeteners, too much sugar.
The pattern is clear: natural food is great! You can save money switching to caeser salads and stir fries as well. You just have to be careful with foods that also present an issue.
Bacon and avocado salad can taste divine, but too much bacon can be bad for you. Also, coffee boosts dopamine, but isn’t always the best choice.
I for one love food! The second I saw what foods could boost my dopamine levels I got excited.
It was a perfect opportunity for me to play around with these ingredients!
I made a meal plan for every day and it made me much more excited to bring out the wok or to treat myself to a fry up.
Getting Out into The World at A Faster Pace
This also comes with a disclaimer. Balance is key here as well. It is possible to get addicted to exercise.
This can be a good thing. “I love it, I look after myself, I go for a run every day, I feel healthy”.
Yet it can also start to become an obsession.
You need to really think about why you’re exercising.
If it’s to improve your mood, help you wake up in the morning, and to keep you in shape then great!
If you’re doing it just to lose weight or to change your appearance, it’s much more important to keep an eye on how much exercise you’re doing and to focus on your body image.
That being said, if it’s to improve your mood and if it’s done in moderation, exercise can be great!
You’ll get blood pumping in your veins.
More oxygen will fill your lungs. And dopamine will flood your brain.
After all, it’s called runner’s high for a reason!
Hugging It Away
Here’s a simple one.
Now, it can be difficult if you live alone. There’ll always be someone somewhere out there to have a hug with, though!
Hugs release dopamine and increase trust in people.
It’s not just hugs, in fact, it’s any form of physically pleasurable touch. Hugs, kisses, sex and massages can all release dopamine.
You have to be careful with sex, though. If it’s not fulfilling, then it can make your dopamine levels “see-saw” making you worse and even develop into an addiction.
The second I see my girlfriend, though, my brain already lights up.
We live quite far apart and so if I’m feeling down or upset about something, I make sure I squeeze her extra hard!
This is one you can do right now.
Type in “dogs”.
It really is that simple!
Yes, looking at cute things online and in person floods your brain with dopamine!
Although it can be tempting to impulse buy a puppy or a kitten, maybe stick to the internet for the time being!
But here’s a wholesome fact that should also boost your dopamine levels: when an elephant sees a human, their brain releases dopamine in the same way as when humans see dogs.
Yes, that’s right. If you’re at the zoo and an elephant is looking at you, it thinks you’re really, really cute!
The trouble with this one is that when you’re low on dopamine you can feel so so tired, but also have trouble with sleep.
Sleep is instrumental in the steady and healthy release of dopamine.
The trick to helping this out is by changing your sleep routine.
Yes, that email can wait until the morning.
It can help massively to not use any electronics before bedtime. Not only this but avoid activities that stimulate your brain too much.
No video games, for example. And always, always, always avoid caffeine after five if you want to sleep at a reasonable time.
Your diet can also help. While a big, greasy meal can make you feel sluggish and tired it’s not necessarily going to help your sleep.
So why not kill two birds with one stone and eat the foods rich in dopamine releasing goodness and improve your sleep cycle while you’re doing it!
I used to hate sleep. I felt like it was an obstacle.
Now, though, I have a very healthy relationship with it. In fact, because I do so many other things on the list the second I hit the bed I’ve almost already fallen asleep!
The trick for me was to make sure I spend more time during the day on my feet.
Showers, But the Good Kind
I’m going to tell you something that may seem strange. When it comes to releasing dopamine, there is such a thing as the right kind of shower.
A cold shower can not only wake you up and make you feel active, it can help release dopamine.
As well as this, a warm shower can actually decrease dopamine levels.
This is because it can trick the body into thinking it’s getting a hug.
Without the genuine human connection there, this confuses the brain.
So even if you hate cold showers, it’s worth blasting yourself with cold water and just giving it a go!
A Sound Investment
Here’s another simple one.
- Open a new tab.
- Play some music.
- That’s all that really needs to be said!
However, classical music or music you remember from years ago can help boost dopamine more.
It’s not simply a matter of taste, there are certain genres or beats that affect the brain in different ways.
So, look them up!
It you’re anxious look up “songs that help with anxiety”. You might be surprised at how effective they all are!
My favorite songs are very different to the songs I listen to when I’m looking for a dopamine boost.
So, it’s not necessarily going to be what you listen to on your commute or when you’re relaxing.
You just need something with a steady beat that really, really gets through to you.
Take up a hobby. Practice a skill. Go on an adventure.
Anything that your brain feels that it’s improving at or that it’s overcome will light your brain up with dopamine.
Yes, it can be stressful taking an exam for the next belt up if you’ve started Karate.
But you will get there. If not then, soon. And when you do the feeling is incredible!
Put yourself out there and perform in front of people as well!
A round of applause can really get the brain going!
I love acting, writing, guitar, and singing.
I think it’s a good mix because I can mostly do these things by myself, alone in my room.
That way I can’t very easily get to where I need to be in terms of smiling and feeling optimistic about my day.
Most of these are pretty simple, aren’t they?
It may be more difficult to get out and exercise or to change your diet, but it’s really worth it.
Also, you can easily work your way up to these! Start off with the simplest ones on this list. Listen to more music and look at more cute things on the internet.
Then, when you’ve started doing this and you’re getting happier and happier, work up to your diet, exercise, and sleep routines.
Finally, before you know it, your brain will be doing it all for you!
- You’ll want to finally take that trip that’s always been in the back of your mind.
- You’ll want to perform.
- You’ll want to do anything and everything because you’ve begun to see how fulfilling life can really be.