Dopamine is the brain’s master chemical. This single neurotransmitter is responsible for a plethora of mental and physical processes. By learning how to stimulate your own dopamine levels naturally, you can overcome depression, anxiety, apathy, and fear, while boosting feelings of pleasure created by this amazing little neuron.
Dopamine is what rewards certain behaviors in us so that we do them again, and why certain drugs are so addictive. Cocaine, heroin and other opiates cause a dopamine “super reward” which makes their use highly desirable until you experience the dopamine crash that comes once the illicit drug is absent from the physiology.
The opiates bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, increasing a dopamine release, but once gone, there is an ever-increasing need for more opiate (or other drugs) to induce the same dopamine-high. This is what causes drug addicts to resort to ever-increasing, negative behaviors to get their next “fix.” The dopamine high is that desirable.
In experiments conducted with mice, when the same nerve bundle that causes an opiate release was stimulated when they pressed a lever, the mice, left to their own devices, would press the lever thousands of times in an hour, due to the pleasurable feelings the dopamine would induce. A later experiment (conducted unethically on a human being) showed a similar response. Over the course of three hours, a person would press a button which triggered a dopamine dump thousands of times to get an immense emotional boost.
We get little dopamine dumps in our brains with less destructive behaviors – like making money, having sex, and even winning a video game, but there are dopamine boosting activities that can regularly boost our “pleasure” neurotransmitter, without causing an addictive backlash.
We have a certain number of dopamine neurons in the brain, and they are smaller than other neurons, making up less than 0.0006% of the neurons in the human brain, but we can stimulate the powerful nerve bundle in the brain that links dopamine neurons with their targets in the forebrain.
Dopamine does more than just boost our happiness quotient, though. It is also responsible for regulating our muscle movement, improving cognitive function, helping keep us focused, make decisions, evaluate problems and solve them, and regulating the secretion of prolactin.
Dopamine is undoubtedly, extremely important for our wellbeing and happiness. Without high dopamine levels, we tend to experience depression, sadness, confusion, fear, negative thinking, rumination, and other emotional obstacles.
Following are some 100-percent-natural ways to increase your dopamine levels:
Exercise elevates dopamine D2 receptors in the brain. It also happens to increase serotonin, and other endorphins in the body as well. Regular exercise can help prevent depression, reduce stress, and strengthen the mind just as much as it strengthens the body.
2. Make a List and Cross Off the Things You Accomplish
The brain dumps a little dopamine every time we successfully accomplish a task – no matter how big or small. To get even more dopamine “hits,” then break up big tasks into smaller pieces, and check them off one by one. This habit also has a tendency of keeping you moving toward your goals and clearing the mental clutter in your mind.
The Principles of Self-Management state that if a task represents a change of 25% (or bigger change) in your life routine, you will feel disinclined to finish it, and often end up self-sabotaging or giving up. Conversely, making small changes (around 10%) keep you going in the right direction, and increase your pleasure.
3. Eat Dopamine-Increasing Foods
The essential amino acid, tyrosine is a precursor for dopamine. By eating foods that contain tyrosine, you can naturally boost dopamine levels. Find tyrosine in things like:
- Green tea
- Dark Chocolate
4. Reduce Your Lipopolysaccharideds
It’s a big word, but it is basically an endotoxin that causes your immune system to go berserk. Lipopolysaccharides also inhibit the production of dopamine. By eating foods that protect the gut, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and taking probiotics, you can lower your lipopolysaccharides, and allow dopamine to be created with ease.
While we’re on the topic of toxins, it is important to regularly detox. The accumulation of too many toxins in your body can prevent dopamine production. There are myriad ways of detoxing, from green juicing to taking activated charcoal, or doing a yogic master cleanse. The less toxic you are, the more super-charged your dopamine levels can get.