Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in the nervous system and throughout your body.
One of its primary functions relates to motivation and behavior reinforcement. In simple terms, dopamine is a type of chemical “reward” that motivates you to repeat the behavior that triggered it.
When dopamine levels are uncontrollably high or trained on the wrong things, it manifests as unhealthy addictions.
When dopamine levels are too low, it can lead to depression, fatigue, and a general lack of motivation and enthusiasm.
A healthy level of dopamine will help you maintain good habits and focus on your goals while also providing enough “reward” to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Here are five tips to immediately improve your dopamine levels naturally:
Eat More Protein
Dopamine is produced in your body from the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) tyrosine and phenylalanine. If you’re not eating enough of these proteins, your body won’t have the raw materials it needs to produce dopamine.
Protein-rich foods like poultry, beef, eggs, avocado, nuts, and soybeans are all excellent choices for getting your amino acids.
Eat More Probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut health. They help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in your intestines, which can positively impact your overall health, including your dopamine levels.
Your guts are like a “second brain,” full of nerve cells that produce and respond to neurotransmitters like dopamine.
So, by keeping your gut healthy with probiotics, you can improve your dopamine levels and your overall mood and well-being.
Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso are all tasty sources of probiotics.
Nearly everyone who engages in physical activity regularly has felt the wave of good feelings that can wash over you during a workout.
This feeling is commonly referred to as an endorphin rush. Endorphins are hormones that are produced and released to deal with pain and stress. One of the things that endorphins do is trigger the release of dopamine.
So, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which then trigger the release of dopamine, giving you that feel-good sensation that can last for hours after your workout is over.
Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Notice the rising and falling of your breath.
What sounds do you hear right now?
What physical sensations do you feel in your body?
Allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment.
Just be here in this moment for a little while, without worrying about the past or the future.
This simple mindfulness meditation practice can reduce your stress and anxiety levels. And as a bonus, it can also help increase your dopamine levels.
Step Away From Your Bad Habits
There’s a good chance you’re wasting a lot of dopamine on things that aren’t good for you, like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, tasty junk food, or binge-watching TV. All those repetitive, mindless behaviors that you keep doing even though you know you shouldn’t—that’s likely a sign that dopamine is being used in an unhealthy way.
While it may be difficult to break these bad habits, spending time away from them should free up some dopamine to be used more constructively elsewhere. Redirect that energy toward activities that are good to engage in repeatedly, like spending time with loved ones, cooking a healthy meal, or working on a hobby.