Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that rewards you with feelings of pleasure and accomplishment. It’s like having a motivational cheerleader in your brain, always ready to celebrate the good stuff.
When you check something off your to-do list, you get a release of dopamine that drives motivation. There are other ways to stimulate the natural release of dopamine, and doing so helps boost your mood, productivity, and overall well-being.
Dopamine signaling plays a role in coordinating your movements, and physical movement has a huge impact on your dopamine levels. Running, cycling, dancing, weightlifting, and any form of exercise you enjoy are very effective ways to elevate dopamine naturally. Research suggests exercise can even be an alternative approach to mental health treatment.
Longer workouts and higher intensities are linked to more dopamine release, and consistent exercise over weeks or months can lead to a more sustained increase in dopamine levels.
Eat Tyrosine-Rich Foods
Supplementing with the amino acid known as tyrosine is shown to improve cognitive function in older adults, and it works by increasing dopamine levels. Due to its role in dopamine synthesis, tyrosine deficiency also leads to dopamine deficiency.
To ensure you’re getting enough tyrosine, eat tyrosine-rich foods like almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, eggs, poultry, fish, and soy products. You can also take tyrosine supplements.
Get Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient, which means your body requires getting them from food. They contribute directly to the membranes that support dopamine receptors, so being deficient in omega-3 will also make you dopamine deficient. If you are deficient in omega-3 fats, supplementing with fish oil could produce a natural anti-depressant effect
All three types of omega-3 fatty acids are essential, including ALA, EPA, and DHA. Certain plant sources contain ALA, such as chia seeds and flax seeds, but EPA and DHA can only be found in fatty fish, eggs, and organ meats.
Time in Nature and Vitamin D
Ah, the beauty of nature. It’s rewarding to the brain, which leads to dopamine release. Spending at least two hours a week in nature creates a positive impact on well-being, according to an investigation published in Scientific Reports. Go for a bike ride, walk in the park, or take your yoga practice outdoors.
Additionally, sunlight exposure triggers the production of vitamin D — a nutrient required for brain cells to release dopamine. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, research suggests taking a vitamin D3 supplement can raise dopamine levels.
Take Mucuna Pruriens Extract
Mucuna pruriens, also known as the “velvet bean,” contains a compound called l-DOPA, which your body converts to dopamine. This bean has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat Parkinson’s disease since the Vedictimes.
Today, l-DOPA (also known as Levodopa) is the common drug prescribed to treat Parkinson’s disease. However, research suggests mucuna pruriens extract offers more neuroprotective effects than l-DOPA. That’s thanks to the plant’s myriad of antioxidants and other compounds, which lower inflammation and support healthy serotonin level
Try Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve memory, concentration, and cognitive function. By reducing oxidative stress, ginkgo biloba may help protect dopamine-producing neurons from damage. It also optimizes dopamine production by boosting blood flow to the brain.
In rats, ginkgo biloba extract increased dopamine levels after two weeks of daily administration. While human trials haven’t looked at the effects of ginkgo biloba extract on dopamine, it’s shown to improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Get Your Sleep
There’s a reason you’re cranky and mentally foggy when you haven’t had enough sleep: low dopamine. Waking hours deplete dopamine levels, but getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep is enough to replenish it.
As a first line of defense against low dopamine, adopt good sleep habits by avoiding caffeine and stimulating activities close to bedtime. Stick to a routine and cut off screen usage an hour before bed since blue light interferes with the brain’s internal clock.
Meditation promotes theta brainwaves, which are associated with learning and higher states of consciousness. While a relationship between brainwaves and neurotransmitter activity exists, exact mechanisms and interactions still aren’t fully understood. Interestingly, a study involving experienced meditators found that meditation increased dopamine levels in the brain by 65% after just one hour.
You don’t need to spend an hour meditating to get your own results. As a plus, meditation is linked to better sleep.
Listen to Music
When you listen to music, your brain lights up with activity. It processes the patterns and structures of the music, anticipates what will come next, and rewards that anticipation when the expected notes or chords are played. This process causes a release of dopamine, which contributes to the pleasurable experience of music. In one study, participants experienced a 9% increase in dopamine levels after listening to music.
Dopamine drives behavior, and that includes social behavior. In fact, low dopamine can play a role in social withdrawal. When you engage socially, you’re rewarded with dopamine. Schedule regular plans with friends and spend time with family. Keep in touch with loved ones when you can’t see them in person. Find groups or clubs in your community that align with your interests, and keep putting yourself out there to meet new people.
Natural Ways to Boost Dopamine Levels
Dopamine’s influence on our brain and behavior is striking, and being able to combat low dopamine levels gives you more power over your well-being. Regular exercise, sleeping well, being in nature, listening to music, practicing meditation, and socializing can all contribute to increased dopamine release. Additionally, supplements like ginkgo biloba, vitamin D3, and mucuna pruriens can help boost dopamine levels naturally.