What is dopamine?
Dopamine is often referred to in popular culture as the happy chemical. It is defined as a hormone and neurotransmitter in the brain that brings about pleasure, reward and motivation particularly when released in large amounts. It’s essential to be aware of how to boost dopamine levels naturally, leading to a more motivating, productive and happier life. There are many evidence-based facts on how to boost dopamine levels naturally, so I will distill this down and keep it very simple.
Solid nutritional eating habits
Regular exercise routines are vital to shaping your physique and boosting self-esteem. A much more significant benefit is that exercise improves your daily mood while increasing endorphin levels which can cause a euphoric feeling following your workout. I recommend 3 to 4 moderate to high-intensity training sessions per week. Regular physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine and sets a positive and energetic tone for your day. When exercise becomes a regular habit, you will experience reduced stress and body fat, increased energy levels, improved sleep and lower blood pressure. Exercise is also known to calm anxiety and feelings of depression. You should consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have a preexisting medical condition.
I am a big proponent of creating the habit of meditating each day, first thing in the morning while your mind is fresh. Meditation is the practice of focusing inwards and letting your thoughts come and go without judgment while bringing your attention back to your focus. Meditation sets the tone and positive mood for your day; it raises your present moment awareness and improves your mental and physical health. Meditation also increases dopamine levels in the brain once you practice daily, which motivates you to keep coming back and reinforcing the habit. I highly recommend that you begin trying it for 10 minutes to start your day as a beginner and commit to repeating the practice for 21 days to establish the habit’s foundation. You can find 21-day meditation challenges that can support you and are available online at no cost.
Face-to-Face interaction with others
I think we all can agree that we trigger those “feel good” chemicals after a pleasant interaction with family members, good friends and work colleagues. It is important to remember that we need to connect with others and socialize regarding current events, share life experiences, and support one another when there is a need. It certainly is a challenge to keep up with this during the recent world pandemic, but that doesn’t stop us from having video chats and outdoor meet-ups while safely distancing. This interaction keeps us mentally healthy by lowering our cortisol levels and makes us more resilient to stress factors. Through these face-to-face interactions, dopamine is released to give you that spike in pleasure and release of pain.
Focus and follow-through
Believe it or not, a simple way to generate a boost in dopamine levels is to remain focused on completing tasks and projects, no matter how big or small they are. The more often you can achieve something of importance to you, the more you will find yourself feeling good and building self-trust. Treat these wins, big or small, like many mini-celebrations. This may not be obvious to everyone, particularly those who frequently procrastinate. Get into the habit of planning your essential tasks and staying laser-focused without distraction or multitasking. If the job is big or important enough, you will find yourself getting into a flow state and getting the work done. The more you do this, the more you will improve your results, releasing a spike in dopamine. Next time you complete an important task that you have been putting, become aware and notice how good it makes you feel in the present moment.
Good sleep hygiene
Getting enough sleep each night and regularly is another important factor in living a healthy life. I am a morning person, and I love the feeling of getting out of bed and feeling alert and ready to get into my goals for the day. A good practice to live by is reducing your exposure to blue light, which can throw your circadian rhythm out of balance and suppress melatonin levels. Studies have shown that many people do not get enough sleep for this reason. Lack of sleep can also lead to the risk of other long-term health issues in the future.
People who generally have insomnia or are forced to stay awake have their available dopamine in the brain dramatically reduced the following day, which causes the unpleasant results of decreased concentration and lack of motivation. I recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep, waking at the same time each day and eliminating caffeine and exposure to blue light late in the day.
Persistently taking action in these areas will lead to higher levels of daily achievement. You can quickly get focused on practicing all of these habits to continually improve and ensure that you are pressing your own “feel good” buttons daily. You may have heard many times before that repetition is the mother of all skill. With daily repetition, many of these will become good foundational habits for you. Our lifestyle choices are essential if we want to be living a healthy and exceptional life.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you need a hand regarding any of these topics, please feel free to reach me directly at email@example.com