In this article you’ll learn how to balance your dopamine levels healthily and naturally so that you can regain your zest for life, increase your motivation and improve your mood and overall cognitive functioning.
The 86 billion neurons in our brain communicate with each other via a set of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is a key driver of focus, motivation and productivity. Low dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss.
What does dopamine do?
Dopamine has been called our “motivation molecule.” It has a strong influence on our drive, focus, and concentration. This neurotransmitter is crucial in helping us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals. Interestingly, dopamine gives us that “I did it!” feeling when we accomplish what we set out to do. It also makes us more competitive and engenders ‘the thrill of the chase’ in all areas of our lives including business, sports, love, and sex.
Dopamine is intrinsically linked to our pleasure/reward system, allowing us to experience feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria. However, a lack of dopamine can leave you unmotivated, lethargic, unfocused, and even depressed.
The symptoms of depression are very similar to the symptoms produced by low dopamine levels and they include:
In fact, dopamine-deficient mice in laboratory settings become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death. Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with excessive and often self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost. The following behaviours are known to boost dopamine levels – in the short term – but carry a heavy penalty in the long term: These can include use and abuse of addictive substances including alcohol, caffeine, sugar, drugs, and participation in destructive behaviours including excessive shopping, sex addiction, overuse of video games, online porn, misuse of power, gambling, or uncontrolled internet overuse.
How to increase dopamine naturally
Thankfully, we don’t have to resort to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to boost our dopamine levels. Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally:
Dopamine boosting foods
Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine. So, eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production. Here’s a list of foods, drinks, and spices known to increase dopamine:
Supplements that can raise dopamine healthily, naturally and safely
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice turmeric. Curcumin readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can effectively enhance dopamine levels. It has been found to be as effective as Prozac for treating even major depression without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders. Look for a curcumin supplement that contains piperine — a compound found in black pepper that increases curcumin absorption by a at least 2,000%.
Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor cognitive function including lack of concentration, poor memory, headaches, mental confusion, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Ginkgo works by raising dopamine along with acetylcholine — a neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning.
L-theanine is a component found in green tea. It increases levels of dopamine along with two other feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and GABA. L-theanine improves learning, the ability to recall information and improves mood. Get a dopamine boost by taking theanine supplements to avoid the caffeine and acidity associated with the tea in its original form.
L-tyrosine, a precursor to dopamine, is available as a supplement, however a better option is acetyl-l-tyrosine, a more bioavailable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” in that it regulates the flow of nutrients and waste in and out of your brain. It can increase dopamine levels and improve concentration, memory, learning, and improve the symptoms of ADHD.
Exercise to boost dopamine
Physical exercise boosts production of new brain cells, it slows down brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain. It can also increase your levels of dopamine along with both serotonin and norepinephrine.
Dr. John Ratey, the renowned psychiatrist has extensively studied the effects of physical exercise on the brain. He found that exercise raises baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors. But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to improve your brain health. Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide potent mind-body benefits.
Increase dopamine with meditation
It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, and the benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies. Regular meditators experience an enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation. In addition, creative hobbies including knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, colouring, and DIY — can create a meditative state. Loving Kindness or Metta meditation particularly boosts dopamine – as does cultivating a compassionate attitude towards others.
Acts of kindness
Simply being kind to others, receiving kindness and even witnessing kindness and compassion balances out and improves dopamine levels.
Listening to music can cause release of dopamine
Interestingly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing. Just the anticipation of listening can do that.
Balance dopamine levels by using your brain’s reward system
Dopamine acts as a survival mechanism by releasing energy when you’re faced with a great. Dopamine rewards us when our needs are met. We love dopamine surges because of the way they make us feel. Our ancestors were on a constant mission to survive. They received a dopamine surge every time they spotted a new patch of berries or a better hunting ground because it meant they’d live another day. Our ancestry aside, there are countless other healthy ways you can enjoy the hunt in modern life. You can forage for new music to download, you can hunt Pokemon, search for specialty ingredients to cook with, scour the web for the perfect pair of shoes to go with that dress. The act of both seeking and finding activates your reward circuits.
The research shows that it takes only 45 days to balance your dopamine levels for optimal functioning – so implement the suggestions above and within only a month and a half you’ll feel happier, healthier, have a brighter outlook, be more goal-orientated and have far better cognitive function.
Meditation - one of the few PROVEN ways to protect and even repair & lengthen your telomeres (those caps on the end of your chromosomes that stop them 'unraveling').
Longer telomeres are associated with being younger - biologically.
There are many different types of meditation - and I do a mixture of these depending upon my mood - and what I feel I need on any given day.
I tend to gravitate towards Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditations most of all, although Yoga Nidra is excellent - especially of I'm having trouble falling asleep.
I also love to practice the Relaxation Response - created by the Grand-Daddy of Mind/Body Medicine, Dr Herbert Benson. I had the huge privilege of training under him at Harvard Medical School's Benson Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine.
Watch for meditation downloads coming to this site very soon!
How do you meditate? I'd love to hear what works for you.
Happiness takes practice - it doesn't just happen - as if by magic. Practice gratitude, be mindful, even do my 'fake it 'til you make it' trick (where you put a pencil horizontally between your teeth - which engages the smile muscles and tricks your neural pathways into thinking you are happy - and then you feel happy!) All of these are proven to work happiness growth strategies. How do you grow your happiness levels?
As always in the CMA e-Newsleter, we report on a diverse range of latest global natural health news - often scooping the national press. So - if you want to stay ahead of the game - and make sure that you are totally up to date with the latest developments in the natural health field - please ensure that you sign up to receive this monthly e-Newsletter.
This month we cover:
In a Fight? Homeopathy vs Conventional Medicine for Those Suffering From Musculoskeletal Disorders. Who Wins?
Healing Touch and Child Cancer
Naturopathy Effective in Treating Type 2 Diabetes Patients
Thai Massage Helps Stroke PatientsHigher Antioxidant Value in Organic Tomatoes
Omega-3 – at up to 5g a day - Supplementation Given “Thumbs Up” By the European Food safety Authority
Any Exercise Is Better Than None - Olympic Athletes and Nutrition
Hawthorn Lowers Cholesterol - Botanical Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease
How Cancer Cells “Live Forever”
How Flatworms Defy Ageing
Coffee Alleviates Some of the Effects of Parkinson’s
Oncologists at several of the most advanced cancer treatment centres in the US, including the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago are using therapies including yoga, acupuncture and stress management.
A spokesman from the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas explained:
"Integrative medicine is a philosophy based on treating patients by focusing on the whole person and using both conventional and complementary therapies in a multidisciplinary care fashion.....It is similar to complementary medicine, but one key difference is that there is an open communication between practitioners of the different traditions."
These centres appear to be following their patients lead as more patients with cancer are turning to integrative medicine or integrative oncology methods (between 30% and 80% of patients use some form of integrative or complementary medicine) and traditional oncology centres have been setting up integrative medicine centers as there has been a growing awareness of the value of integrative oncology therapies, among traditional oncologists.
Read more here
Jayney Goddard is one of the world's leading experts in the field of complementary medicine and natural healthcare. Her passion is natural anti-ageing; Jayney teaches people how to rewind their biological clocks so that they are more resilient to the diseases of ageing. The strategies Jayney uses are grounded in excellent science and have been shown to halt and even reverse those conditions we associate with ageing.