Although we experience it every day, many people underestimate the impact dopamine has on their mood.
Dopamine is a chemical in our brains that helps us recognize when we’ve experienced something pleasurable — a delicious meal, an invigorating workout, a new favorite song — and motivates us to pursue behaviors that benefit us.
Without dopamine circulating through our bodies, we’d have a hard time experiencing pleasure or finding the energy to achieve our goals.
But dopamine can have its downsides…
If you don’t find natural ways to supply dopamine to your body, your body may resort to sourcing it in unhealthy ways that wreak long-term havoc on your physical and mental health, via addictive substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, or even illegal drugs.
Let’s explore nine natural methods for increasing your dopamine levels so you can enjoy the benefits of this feel-good hormone without putting your health at risk.
What Is Dopamine?
Like serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin, dopamine is a “feel-good hormone” and neurotransmitter in the body responsible for positive emotions.
Dopamine is produced when one amino acid is converted into another amino acid called L-dopa.
As human beings, our brains are hardwired to drive us toward behaviors that produce dopamine — which, in turn, can help us achieve more and feel more fulfilled in every area of life.
What Are the Signs of Low Dopamine Levels?
While dopamine deficiency does not constitute a medical diagnosis, it has been linked with many health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, depression, restless leg syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Even if you don’t have a medical condition, low dopamine levels can cause a variety of symptoms that can make it hard for you to bring your best self to every area of your life, including:
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Low libido
- Difficulty focusing
- Gastrointestinal issues
For this reason, it’s important to find strategies to increase dopamine naturally.
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9 Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine
1. Eat Foods that Contain Natural Probiotics
Your gut strongly influences your emotional life by improving your brain function and reducing stress and anxiety. Dopamine, like other neurotransmitters, is produced in your gut microbiome, so to keep your gut healthy, try eating Greek yogurt, kombucha, and probiotic supplements.
2. Fill your Plate with Fava Beans and Velvet Beans
Velvet beans and fava beans have been linked with treating Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years.
Velvet beans naturally contain high amounts of L-dopa, one of the amino acids used to create dopamine.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider and do your research before eating fava and velvet beans, as their shells are toxic, and the beans themselves can be toxic in high amounts. You can always reap their benefits in supplement form, too.
Most people know that regular exercise benefits the body, but it also benefits the mind by producing endorphins, and reducing stress and anxiety.
Promising studies have also shown that exercise, such as yoga and aerobics, results in higher dopamine levels among participants and may even help those living with Parkinson’s disease.
4. Listen to Music
Some studies have shown that turning up your favorite tunes lights up the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. These pleasure centers contain dopamine receptors.
You probably know what this dopamine response feels like, too. It happens anytime you hear a song you love.
Use this dopamine response to help you be more productive at work — just make sure your music isn’t distracting when you’re in focus mode.
5. Reduce Stressors
While chronic stress can negatively impact your health, moderate levels of stress can actually benefit your immune system, productivity, and creativity.
Strategies such as getting a massage, practicing breathwork, or reading can help you reduce chronic stress and leave more room for dopamine.
According to a meditation study in Brain Research, participants who meditated for one hour saw a 65% increase in dopamine production.
But you don’t need a candlelit yoga studio or an hour-long break to reap the benefits of meditation. You can meditate on your lunch break, while walking, or on your daily commute. You also don’t need to wait until you’re an expert in meditation to begin creating this habit in your life. You can simply start by incorporating meditation into your morning or evening rituals for five to 10 minutes each day.
7. Get Enough Sunlight
Experiencing a lack of sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and inversely, getting more sunlight can improve your mood.
Sun exposure has been linked to increased serotonin, vitamin D, and even stronger bones. Additionally, there is evidence that sunlight supports dopamine responses, too.
You can get more sun by simply having your morning coffee by the window, opening the curtains in your office, exercising outdoors, or taking meetings outside. The result may be an improved mood and better dopamine levels.
8. Eat Enough Protein
Protein is made of amino acids. One of which, tyrosine, is required to make dopamine.
For this reason (on top of several other health benefits) try to have protein at every meal. Eat plenty of foods, such as pork, chicken, beef, salmon, tofu, skim milk, canned tuna, and ricotta cheese to keep your protein — and tyrosine — levels high.
9. Try Dopamine Dressing
Perhaps one of the most fun and creative ways to incorporate more dopamine into your day is to try dopamine dressing.
Dopamine dressing is the practice of selecting clothing to elevate your mood. This kind of dressing involves wearing bright colors, fun accessories, or unique patterns that make you feel happy. Many people utilize color psychology when creating their dopamine-centric wardrobe as well.
“Dressing for success” takes on a new meaning when you incorporate dopamine dressing in your professional wardrobe. Not only will you be dressed to succeed at work, but you’ll also optimize your mood for better productivity.
The Bottom Line
Maintaining balanced dopamine levels isn’t just about boosting your mood and motivation. It’s about empowering yourself to live your best life. When your brain has a healthy dose of dopamine, you’re more focused, more energetic, and more productive. This heightened state of mind can be a game-changer when it comes to setting (and reaching) personal and professional goals.
Incorporating natural dopamine boosters into your daily routine can be a transformative step towards a healthier, happier, and more successful you.
Remember, everyone’s journey is unique. What works best for one person may not work for another, and the most important thing is to listen to your body and make adjustments that suit your individual needs and circumstances.
Start your wellness journey today with our quick health and wellness assessment. It can provide valuable insights into your overall health and help guide you on the path to achieving your goals. Because when you’re living your best life, you’re not just surviving — you’re thriving.