What’s inside this article: 10 Natural ways to boost your body’s dopamine levels, which improves mood, motivation, attention, and focus. Includes causes of low dopamine, including medical conditions that may need to be addressed.
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What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical produced and used by the brain to send messages across neurons. We have many different neurotransmitters, all with their own jobs. Dopamine is one of our feel good neurotransmitters.
It’s interacts with the brain’s pleasure and reward center which directly affects mood, motivation, attention, and focus. It plays a direct role in how happy we feel, along with some other happy chemicals like serotonin, and endorphins.
Our body’s do a pretty good job of making and regulating dopamine, but certain lifestyle and health factors can interfere with it’s production.
Causes of Low Dopamine:
Some factors that affect dopamine production:
- Sleep deprivation
- Drug use
Low dopamine is linked to numerous mental health disorders (but doesn’t directly cause these conditions).
The most common conditions linked to a dopamine deficiency include:
- psychosis, including hallucinations or delusions
- Parkinson’s disease
Some research suggests that individuals with ADHD also experience dopamine deficiency, either the body doesn’t produce enough dopamine or the neurotransmitter is reabsorbed too quickly, interfering with synapses.
Signs of Low Dopamine
The signs of dopamine deficiency may include:
- Poor concentration
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Inability to focus
- Lack of motivation
- Low libido
How to Boost Dopamine Levels Naturally
Lifestyle changes can help naturally boost dopamine levels, which can improve your mood, focus, and attention, leading to improved productivity.
However, it’s important to know that if you have an underlying medical condition that’s impacting dopamine production, you should seek advice from your primary care provider. Managing your physical and mental health will be key in boosting dopamine levels.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep affects the body’s natural rhythms, including the production of dopamine. Normally, dopamine is most abundant in the morning and decreases in the evening.
However, when you stay awake through the night, the availability of dopamine receptors in the brain is dramatically reduced by the next morning (Source).
Regularly getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night helps keep the body’s dopamine levels well balanced.
2. Listen to Music
Brain imaging studies show that listening to music increases activity in the reward and pleasure pathways of the brain which are rich in dopamine receptors.
So, if you’re having trouble concentrating on your work or just feel like you’re lacking motivation, try playing some of your favorite music to give yourself a dopamine boost.
Exercise not only boosts dopamine, but also serotonin and endorphins, while simultaneously lowering cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Studies show that 20 minutes of aerobic activity per day can drastically improve mood. This doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym, either. A brisk walk is all you need to feel happier.
But, if you’re interested in different exercise programs but aren’t sure what would be best for you, read this guide.
4. Take An Omega-3 Supplement Daily
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are essential fats because unlike other types of fat, our body can’t make omega-3s from scratch. We must include them in our diets.
Cell membranes throughout our bodies use omega-3s. Which makes them a critical component for cell receptors to function. This includes dopamine receptors.
When you think of omega-3, you probably think of fish or fish oil. I actually recommend this vegan omega-3 supplement. The omega-3 in this supplement comes from algae, and as it turns out, the only reason fish contain omega-3 is because of the algae in their diets.
It just makes sense to get your Omega from the algae itself – there are no toxins, no fishy aftertaste, and it’s more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
5. Take a Probiotic
Brain health and gut health are closely linked.
New research found that certain (good) bacteria living in the gut can actually produce dopamine.
Taking a probiotic can improve gut health while also improving mood and lowering anxiety levels.
6. Eat Less Saturated Fat
Some researchers hypothesize that diets high in saturated fat may increase inflammation in the body, leading to changes in the dopamine system.
There is also a link between high saturated fat intake and poor memory and cognitive functioning in humans.
Saturated fat is found in (Source):
Saturated fat is found in:
- butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil
- fatty cuts of meat
- cured meats like salami, chorizo, and pancetta
- pastries, such as pies, quiches, sausage rolls, and croissants
- cream, crème fraîche and sour cream
- ice cream
- coconut milk and coconut cream
- chocolate and chocolate spreads
7. Get Enough Sunlight
It’s well known that periods of low sun light exposure can lead to reduced levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and that sunlight exposure can increase them. This is well studied because it’s the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder (when people feel more depressed in the winter months).
If getting enough sunlight is challenging due to your job, where you live, the season, etc. you can supplement sunlight with UV-free light therapy by using a Happy Light.
8. Cut Back Your Sugar Intake
Consuming processed sugars like candy, baked goods, and juice have the ability to increase your dopamine levels, but this increase is only temporary and artificial. It then leads to a crash.
Like with alcohol and recreational drugs, sugar can give you temporary boosts of dopamine while negatively affecting the rate at which your body produces it naturally.
Sugar is addictive. For tips on cutting back your sugar intake, read this guide.
9. Eat Foods Rich in Tyrosine
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine.
Our bodies use tyrosine to produce neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Tyrosine is found in cheese, yogurt, coffee, almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish, and chicken.
Tyrosine is also available as a dietary supplement.
10. Physical Contact
Physical contact triggers dopamine production. You can boost dopamine for yourself, and others, by getting more physical contact.
This includes all types of contact, such as:
- Holding hands with your spouse
- Hugging your kids
- Cuddling with your cat or dog
- Getting a massage
Remember, these lifestyle changes can boost dopamine levels and help improve your overall mood and productivity levels.
However, If the cause of your low dopamine levels is an underlying medical condition, you should speak to your primary care provider. Treating the condition will alleviate your low dopamine level symptoms and leave you feeling healthier and happier.