What is dopamine?
Meet dopamine, your “motivator hormone”, responsible for getting you off the couch and all hyped up to do the things you love. Dopamine is one of your brain’s feel-good hormones, associated with pleasure, reward and excitement.
Dopamine is released in your brain’s “pleasure centres” when you do – or even just think about doing- something that you look forward to. That feeling of excitement whenever you hear your favorite song play at a party, eat a fudge chocolate chip cookie or bump into your crush- that is dopamine at work.
Why is dopamine important?
Dopamine plays an important role in:
- memory, learning and focus through reinforcement and reward seeking
- movement and sleep
- physiological functions: heart rate, kidney function, blood vessel function
- pain processing
How can you boost it?
Low dopamine levels are linked with a lack of motivation and concentration, fatigue and mood swings. Feeling lazy to move from the couch to do anything, unable to even choose which Netflix show to watch? Here are some tiny habits that you can incorporate into your everyday life to maintain high levels of dopamine to keep you motivated and on your feet:
- Get some natural sunlight every day
- Get quality sleep -it will make your brain more receptive to dopamine.
- Eat a healthy diet including protein-rich foods such as soy, avocado, chicken and legumes, tyrosine packed foods such as nuts, and amino acid L-theanine rich green tea, linked to an increased dopamine production.
- Limit the intake of high-fat processed foods, which interfere with dopamine production.
- Find a new skill, hobby or creative activity that gets you excited. Anticipating progress and acknowledging your improvement will boost your dopamine release.
- Exercise regularly and recognize your achievements.
- Listen to music -It will give you chills to boost your dopamine levels.
- Meditate and try out yoga – it’s trendy and evidence suggests that it can trigger dopamine release in the brain.
- Set goals at the beginning of your day – checking each item off the list will give you a mini-dopamine rush. Dopamine makes it feel good to pursue things, even if they are broken down into small and more manageable steps. The greater the accomplishment, the bigger the dopamine buzz.
By anticipating the positive feeling that accompanies these tiny additions to your routine, you will also feel more optimistic and better about yourself.
Know when to slow down: The dopamine you want to avoid
Is dopamine a crucial brain response to boost your motivation, enthusiasm and overall happiness? Yes.
However, too much dopamine can also be detrimental, causing poor impulse control, leading to anxiety and stress. At the extreme, high levels of dopamine are correlated to ADHD and addiction.
Playing on instant gratification, alcohol and drugs release a temporary and intense rush of dopamine in the brain. These peeks in dopamine are very short lived and produce abrupt crashes, which can lead the brain to produce less dopamine overall if they are cut off from their addictive source.
Therefore, the best way to maintain healthy and constant levels of dopamine in the brain is to avoid drugs, sugar-high foods and social media addiction and to embrace healthy habits that will make you feel good and motivated.