Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain that allows us to feel pleasure, as part of our brain reward system. We’ll give you 10 ways to increase dopamine naturally.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and “feel good” hormone that is responsible for movement, memory, pleasurable reward, and motivation. Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure, and low levels of dopamine are associated with mental health issues like depression. Having low levels of dopamine is also linked to decreased motivation and enthusiasm. Dopamine levels are regulated within the nervous system, but there are some ways that you can naturally boost your dopamine levels through certain lifestyle habits that trigger the brain to produce a ‘dopamine rush’.
1. Consume Probiotics
Scientific research in recent years has increasingly linked the gut and brain, as gut microbes play a major role in the production of brain chemicals including dopamine. A 2020 study has found that probiotics have anti-depressive mechanisms and therapeutic potential. The gut contains a large number of nerve cells that produce many neurotransmitters including dopamine. Therefore, good gut health could be linked to improved mental health. Instead of opting for supplements, look to add foods that are high in natural probiotics to your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep each night is important for your overall health. In particular, if you do not get enough sleep, this can affect your dopamine levels as your dopamine receptors are affected by a lack of sleep. A 2012 study has found that sleep deprivation down regulates dopamine production in the brain. If you are looking to fix your sleeping schedule, implementing a consistent nighttime routine is good way to improve your sleep hygiene.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
What you eat can impact your ability to create neurotransmitters like dopamine. Dopamine consumed in foods will not cross the blood-brain barrier, so this will not impact dopamine in the brain. Consuming foods that are high in L-Tyrosine, the precursor to dopamine, is a way to naturally increase dopamine. L-Tyrosine is known to increase dopamine levels and reduce stress, according to a 2007 study. Foods that are high in L-Tyrosine include:
- Whole grains
- Lean animal protein
- Leafy Green Vegetables
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly has been well proven to be very good for our brains health. Studies show that exercise triggers the brain to release dopamine as well as other feel good hormones such as endorphins. For example, the ‘runners high’ is associated with the state of feeling of euphoric and relaxed during or after running a certain distance due to dopamine that is released in the brain. Exercising is therefore a great way for boosting your mood.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is a way to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress and allow yourself to be present in the moment. Research from 2002 shows that practicing meditation can increase your dopamine levels as much as 65 percent. Meditation is very helpful at building a healthier brain, including building stronger neural connections, reducing brain inflammation, reducing stress hormones, and increasing blood flow to the brain. Yoga is a great form of meditation to try, as well as many alternatives to yoga with similar benefits.
6. Listen to Music
Listening to music is another natural way to stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain. A 2019 study has found that dopamine has an important role in musical pleasure and how our brain interprets music when we listen to it. Research has found that if you listen to a song that gives you chills, this causes the brain to release dopamine. Listening to any music that you enjoy will put you in a good mood.
7. Take a Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower flushes your brain with feel good hormones including dopamine and serotonin due to the state of shock that your body goes into due to the cold water. An older study has found that taking a cold shower increases the production of dopamine in the brain by up to 250 percent. A 2008 study explains that having a cold shower activates the sympathetic nervous system and sends a lot of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain. This is known to have anti-depressive effects.
8. Get a Massage
Massages are known to release stress and allow you to become more relaxed. A study from 2005 has found that massage therapy allows for the stress hormone cortisol levels to decrease, whilst levels of serotonin and dopamine increase. The study found a 31 percent increase in dopamine following the massage therapy.
There are certain nutrients that come in supplement form that may be useful to take if you want to naturally increase your dopamine levels. Supplements that are known to boost dopamine levels include:
- Magnesium: there is evidence that magnesium deficiency may contribute to decreased dopamine levels and this causes an increased risk of depression.
- Ginkgo Biloba: a study from 2010 has found that Ginkgo Biloba increases dopamine levels in rats.
- Green tea: green tea naturally contains L-theaninem which can increase certain neurotransmitters in your brain, including dopamine.
10. Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in nature to naturally boost your dopamine levels can include activities such as wild swimming, or nature therapy. Allowing yourself to become more in touch with the natural environment has many mental health benefits, including relieving symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Horticultural therapy, in particular, has been found to increase dopamine levels and overall improve mental health. Increased sunlight exposure is also linked to increased levels of dopamine and improved cognition.
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