As one of the brain’s most important chemical messengers, dopamine is essential for memory, mood, motivation, sleep, and behavior regulation. It is at the center of how the brain’s reward system operates. For example, dopamine rewards you when you engage in a behavior that motivates you to repeat that behavior. This is why you feel immense reward or pleasure listening to music, getting a good night’s sleep, or eating a great meal.
Contrarily, low dopamine levels can deplete your motivation and enthusiasm about things that excite most people. There are several causes for low dopamine levels, some of the primary of which include brain injury or an inability to respond to dopamine properly. If levels get too low for too long, you increase the risk of restless leg syndrome, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. Low dopamine levels can also make you more susceptible to developing addictions or taking risks.
Natural Ways To Boost Dopamine Levels
If you find that you regularly feel tired or sad and experience brain fog, low energy, or lack of motivation, you may have low dopamine levels. Irritation and worry tend to indicate low serotonin levels, which you can learn more about here. There are strategies to address low dopamine levels and naturally increase them. Below, you’ll find the best ways to naturally increase dopamine levels.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
Diet supports mental and physical well-being. If you need to increase dopamine levels, try to focus on foods that contain tyrosine, which is a nonessential amino acid that is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Foods that are rich in tyrosine include almonds, avocados, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, yogurt, fish, and bananas. Additionally, probiotic-rich foods may help to increase dopamine production.
Listen To Music
If you want to stimulate the release of dopamine, listen to music. Several brain imaging studies found that listening to music works to increase activity in the pleasure and reward sectors of the brain. Both of these areas of the brain contain lots of dopamine receptors. A small 2011 study investigated the effects of music on dopamine levels. The findings indicated a 9% increase in brain dopamine levels when people listened to instrumental songs that gave them chills or goosebumps.
If you are familiar with runner’s high, you understand that exercise can affect your mood. Several experts recommend high-intensity interval training workouts to yield a mood-boosting effect. Take a brisk walk and include moments of walking as fast as you can for one minute at a time to boost dopamine levels. More research is necessary to figure out the exact mechanism that causes the brain to produce dopamine during exercise.
Meditation is an old practice that helps you establish a better mind/body connection. Forcing you to look inward and accept your thoughts without judgment, meditation is a practice that benefits your mental health. New research found that regular meditation has the ability to increase dopamine levels in the brain. One study, for example, included 8 experienced meditation teachers and found a 65% increase in dopamine production after one hour of meditation. Researchers believe that increasing dopamine levels is thought to maintain a positive mood and motivation amongst meditators.
Avoid Processed Sugars
If you love candy and soda, it’s time to remove them from your diet if you want to increase dopamine levels. The interesting thing is that eating sugary foods can lead to a quick dopamine rush, but this is only temporary and artificial. Alcohol and drugs have a similar effect, giving you temporary dopamine bursts. These vices actually affect the rate at which your body produces it naturally, so don’t consume processed sugars in order to avoid the crash that leaves you feeling down.
Get Your Zzz’s
Sleep experts recommend that people get between seven to eight hours of sleep every night for better overall health. When dopamine is released in the brain, it creates feelings of wakefulness and alertness. Having less dopamine in the body typically makes it harder to concentrate and it affects coordination. Sleep deprivation and insomnia can adversely affect dopamine receptors in the brain. Lack of sleep can actually suppress these receptors, which makes it difficult for your body to produce dopamine. Make sure to get your zzz’s on a nightly basis to help you feel more alert and in a better mood.
The body requires several nutrients in order to create dopamine. These nutrients include iron, folate, vitamin B6, and niacin. Being deficient in one or more of these nutrients can make it difficult for the brain to produce enough dopamine. If you get a full blood panel, you can get a better understanding of whether you are deficient in any of these nutrients or not. That way, you can supplement accordingly to bring levels back up to normalize dopamine production. These nutrients are readily available in food sources, so consider looking at your diet prior to supplementation.