Dopamine is an important chemical messenger in your brain that has many functions.
It’s involved in reward, motivation, memory, attention, and even regulation of body movements. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivate you to repeat a specific behavior.
In contrast, low levels of dopamine are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that would excite most people. Dopamine levels are typically well regulated within the nervous system, but there are some things you can do to naturally increase your levels. In this article, we shall discuss the best natural ways to increase your dopamine levels.
If you’re wondering how to increase dopamine, start with the general practices of a healthy lifestyle:
- Get sufficient sleep regularly.
- Listen to music.
- Eat healthfully.
- Practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing, etc.
- Limit your intake of processed foods.
- Try to minimize stress.
Dopamine, a chemical messenger in your brain that governs motivation, movement, memory, mood, sleep, and behavior regulation, is central to the brain’s reward system. It rewards you whenever you engage in a beneficial behavior and motivates you to repeat the behavior.
Every time we do something enjoyable, like eating a nice meal, having sex, or going for a run, a little bit of dopamine is released in our brains. However, engaging in vices like alcohol or recreational drugs also causes dopamine to be released into the brain. This is why the chemical messenger has been closely linked to addiction.
Low dopamine levels have been linked to several medical conditions like depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Low dopamine levels can make you feel less motivated, apathetic, and listless and affect your ability to concentrate.
Some symptoms of low dopamine levels include:
- Low libido
- Muscle stiffness
- Lack of motivation
Table of Contents
- 1 How Dopamine Works
- 2 What Causes Low Dopamine Levels?
- 3 How to Increase Your Dopamine Levels Naturally
Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels
Strategies for increasing your dopamine levels are similar to those for living a healthy lifestyle:
- Get enough sleep.
- Listen to music.
- Eat well.
- Avoid overprocessed foods.
- Manage stress.
How Dopamine Works
Most of the dopamine produced by your body is made in the midbrain after which it is distributed to different areas in your brain. Despite decades of research, scientists are still baffled by the exact mechanism of dopamine in the brain.
There are four major pathways for dopamine in your brain. Each one controls a different process in your body. Three of these pathways are your rewards pathways and their function is to release dopamine into your brain when you engage in a rewarding activity.
What Causes Low Dopamine Levels?
Many things could cause low dopamine levels. Some of them include:
- Medical conditions: Some medical conditions have been linked to low dopamine levels. Conditions like schizophrenia, Parkinson’s diseases, depression, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder are common culprits of low dopamine levels.
- Poor diet: Eating a diet that doesn’t contain adequate nutrients for optimal brain health could cause low dopamine levels—especially a diet that’s lacking in tyrosine.
- Substance abuse: Abuse of alcohol and recreational drug use can, in the long term, cause your body to reduce its natural production of dopamine. This, in turn, causes you to rely on the substance you are abusing.
- Certain medications: Some medications like antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs work by binding to dopamine receptors. This blocks the natural activity of dopamine in your brain.
How to Increase Your Dopamine Levels Naturally
Treating dopamine loss aims to cause the production of more dopamine, slow down the breakdown of dopamine that is being produced, create more dopamine receptors, and repair existing dopamine receptors so that they can work better.
There are several supplements and medications available for people who have low dopamine levels. Medication is often used in cases where your depleted dopamine levels are caused by a condition such as depression or schizophrenia.
However, there are some techniques you could also use to increase your dopamine levels naturally.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is necessary for maintaining our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get an average of seven or more hours of sleep every night.
When you don’t get enough sleep, dopamine receptors in your body can be adversely affected. Research has linked sleep deprivation to the suppression of some dopamine receptors in your body.
Listen to Some Music
Make a playlist of some of your favorite music and listen to it when you are feeling listless, unmotivated, or experiencing other symptoms that indicate your dopamine levels are low.
In a 2011 study, researchers found that when you listen to music you find pleasurable it can lead to a release of dopamine in your brain.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet has several benefits for both your body and mind and increasing your dopamine levels is part of this. Foods that are rich in tyrosine like almonds, egg fish, and chicken are especially good for boosting dopamine levels.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is naturally produced by the body. Dopamine is made from this amino acid and can be found in protein-rich foods. Foods that contain natural probiotics such as yogurt and kefir may also increase dopamine production.
Drinks like coffee also boost your dopamine, but keep in mind that as your dopamine levels drop after drinking it, this could cause a caffeine addiction.
Exercising regularly has been proven to be very important for your brain’s health. It can also help you boost your dopamine levels. Whenever you exercise your brain releases some dopamine.
While more research needs to be conducted into the exact mechanism that leads the brain to produce dopamine when we exercise, you are probably familiar with the feeling you get after a workout.
Frequent runners also report experiencing something called a runner’s high. This is described as a feeling of relaxation and elation and is a result of the release of dopamine by the brain.
Meditating has a positive effect on a host of mental health conditions. Research also shows that meditation has the ability to increase your dopamine levels.
Cut Down on Processed Sugars
Consuming processed sugars like candy and soda have the ability to increase your dopamine levels, but this increase is only temporary and artificial. Like alcohol and recreational drugs, sugar can give you temporary boosts of dopamine while affecting the rate at which your body produces it naturally.
When you consume a large amount of sugar in a short time, you may notice that you feel a rush of elation. This is a sugar high. It is typically very temporary and followed by a crash that leaves you feeling down.
Remove Stressors From Your Life
Stress is a precursor to many medical conditions, it also causes low dopamine levels. We aren’t always in control of the things that bring stress into our lives, but we can eliminate stressors that we have some control over.
For instance, if a long commute to work is causing stress, you might consider moving closer to work. You can also engage in activities that reduce stress like meditating, exercising, or getting a massage.
In summary, if you are experiencing symptoms that indicate that you might have a condition more serious than low dopamine levels, it’s important to see a doctor. If the cause of your low dopamine levels is an underlying medical condition, treating the condition will alleviate your low dopamine level symptoms and leave you feeling healthier and happier.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.