It’s most commonly known as the ‘pleasure’ or ‘addiction’ chemical – produced by our brains when we eat chocolate, take drugs or have sex – but, with research finding that dopamine-enhancing supplements can be as effective as Prozac in the fight against depression, it might be time to start taking it more seriously. Sluggish dopaminergic activity may not only prevent you from reaching the giddy heights of euphoric bliss, but impinge upon the levels of motivation, concentration and focus you’re able to summon up on a day to day basis. Here are 10 all-natural ways to boost your dopamine levels today.
Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine – if you’re not consuming enough tyrosine-containing foods, your brain can’t make enough dopamine. The ripe banana is your best friend, but meat, eggs and dairy products are also good sources, along with almonds, seeds and beans, oatmeal and wheatgerm, apples, watermelon and cherries, avocado, beetroots and leafy green vegetables. Experts also suggest consuming 3 cups of green tea per day, thanks to its high L-theanine content. It can also pay to consume plenty of probiotic-rich foods and drinks, such as kefir.
Stop Chasing that Sugar High
Try to limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (and, of course, steer clear of illegal drugs), which may all increase short term dopamine production, but decrease long term production.
Don’t worry – it’s not all bad news. Having regular sex is an expert-endorsed way of topping up those dopamine levels.
Circumin (the primary active ingredient in turmeric) has been found to be as effective at treating depression as Prozac. Choose circumin supplements which also contain black pepper to increase absorption by a massive 2000%. Increasing your vitamin C and E consumption may also help.
Researchers now believe that dopamine, rather than endorphins, is responsible for the ‘runner’s high’. But even gentle exercise can help you keep those dopamine levels topped up. Try to spend at least 20-30 minutes each day engaging in low-impact aerobic activity – like walking or yoga – to feel the benefits.
Get Enough Sleep
Your brain needs sufficient recovery time to replenish its dopamine stores – for most people, that means 6-9 hours of shut-eye a night.
Recent research has found that meditation can increase the levels of dopamine circulating in the brain by a whopping 65%. Why not download a free app to help you get started, such as Headspace?
Listen to Music
This will give you an instant dopamine ‘hit’ without the ‘crash’ of a sugar or caffeine comedown.
Take up a New Hobby
Whether it’s sketching or tap dancing, the process of immersing yourself in learning or performing a creative skill can draw you into the hyper-focused, transcendental mind state known as ‘flow’. Feel it? That’s dopamine in action, right there.
Set Mini Goals
That feeling you get when you tick another item off your to-do list? Yep, that’s down to dopamine, too. So make a list of all those pesky little jobs you’ve been meaning to get round to for the past several days, weeks, months or – yes – even years, and do them. Now. Then take those big, daunting long term goals and break them down into a series of smaller steps – each time you complete a step, you’ll be rewarded with a little hit of dopamine. Which, in turn, will stoke up the motivation and focus you need to drive you on to the next step. Clever.