Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which provides drive, focus, and motivation. It also plays a significant role in mental disorders like schizophrenia, addictions, depression, and ADHD.
Dopamine: The Motivation Molecule
Given that it increases concentration, focus, and drive, dopamine is often referred to as “motivation molecule”. It allows us to plan ahead, achieve our goals, and succeed in all aspects of life- love, work, and family.
Dopamine is responsible for our pleasure-reward system, allowing us to enjoy in the feelings of bliss and euphoria. Hence, the fact that lack of dopamine is associated with lethargy and even depression doesn’t come as surprise.
Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms
Those low in dopamine show low energy and motivation and are dependent on stimulants like sugar and caffeine to get through the day. Most of the dopamine deficiency symptoms resemble those of depression:
- memory loss
- inability to concentrate
- lack of motivation
- low libido
- inability to feel pleasure
- mood swings
- sleep problems
In one study, dopamine-deficient lab mice became lethargic and apathetic to the extent of losing their motivation to eat. So, it`s no wonder that some people with dopamine deficiency compensate with self-destructive behaviors to boost their dopamine levels, such as shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and more.
How to Increase Dopamine Naturally
Foods That Increase Dopamine
Dopamine is made of tyrosine, so eating a diet high in this amino acid ensures you have enough of the building blocks needed for the production of dopamine. Here is a list of some tyrosine-rich foods:
- sea vegetables
- sesame and pumpkin seeds
- green beans
- wheat germ
- all animal products
- lima beans
- fava beans
- green leafy vegetables
Kefir, yogurt, raw sauerkraut and other foods high in natural probiotics are also capable of boosting dopamine production. While sugar has been also shown to increase dopamine, it is worth noting that this is only a temporary boost.
There are also some supplements that can increase dopamine levels in an all-natural way:
Curcumin: This ingredient has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus boost dopamine levels. It can be found in an isolate form as supplement.
Ginkgo biloba: It is used to treat a wide range of brain-related problems, including anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, poor concentration, mental confusion, fatigue, and headaches.
L-theanine: This compound present in green tea is known to boost levels of dopamine along with GABA and serotonin, other neurotransmitters. It improves learning, recall, and mood. The best way to obtain this compound is by drinking green tea on a daily basis or taking theanine supplements.
Boost Dopamine with Exercise
Exercise is definitely one of the best things one can do for their brain. It stimulates the production of new brain cells, improves the flow of nutrients to the brain, delays brain cell aging, and increases dopamine levels.
You don’t necessarily have to exercise intensively to improve your brain. Yoga, qi gong, and taking walks can also go a long way in providing potent mind-body benefits.
Increase Dopamine with Meditation
Meditation offers a wide plethora of health benefits, such as increasing creativity, improving ability to learn, increasing dopamine, boosting concentration, and improving focus.
Other activities that are known to boost dopamine levels include listening to music, drawing, woodworking, knitting, sewing, photography, and even home repair.
Healthy Ways to Balance Dopamine by Working with your Brain`s Built-in-Reward System
Enjoy the Quest: Seek activities that activate your reward system, such as looking for new music or engaging in new hobbies like rock hounding, bird watching, or amateur archaeology.
Create Both Long and Short Term Goals: This is very important as dopamine is released when we achieve our goals.
Take on a New Challenge: You can always create your dopamine rewards by taking new challenges and setting a goal, whether it is starting a new exercise regimen or learning a foreign language.
Dopamine and Mental Conditions
Here are the 3 mental conditions that are directly associated with dopamine!
1. Dopamine and ADHD
While the root cause of ADHD is still unclear, it was recently found that abnormality in dopamine function has something to do with its development. Hence, most of the ADHD medications are based on this theory.
2. Dopamine and Depression
Multiple studies have shown that low dopamine and not low serotonin is the real cause of depression for many people.
3. Dopamine and Schizophrenia
Although the root cause of schizophrenia is unknown, it is believed that environmental factors and genetics play a significant role. One theory suggests that an overactive dopamine system might be to blame. Supporting evidence for this particular theory is that the best way to address this problem is by taking drugs that are similar to dopamine and block its receptors.