10 Easy Habits to Boost Dopamine Naturally

Pleasure, motivation, productivity and happiness. What if I say you can kill all 4 birds with just a single stone.

Disclaimer: No birds were harmed during the writing process. This article is for informative purposes only. It is meant to serve as a self-improvement guide for the readers. Yet, we advise you to listen to your intuition and always do what is right for you. 

Dopamine is a chemical that is essential for your motivation, memory, mood and sleep regulation. Every time you do something enjoyable, a little bit of dopamine is released into your brain. And it’s because of it, that you feel happy, satisfied, and even euphoric.

It’s in charge of your pleasure-reward system that makes you go, “Yes I did it”. It motivates you to repeat an activity or behaviour that triggers dopamine. It’s a cycle of motivation, reward and reinforcement. And with the right amount of dopamine and building little habits to boost dopamine levels in your daily lives, you can perform at your best. So, let’s move on to 12 habits you can adopt in your everyday life to naturally boost dopamine.

1. Listening to music

Have you ever got chills listening to a piece of music? And do you keep listening to your favourite songs on loop? These chills are what you feel when dopamine is released in your body. When you listen to a song you enjoy, the dopamine released in your system reinforces you to listen to that same song again.

A study published by a group of researchers in January 2011 found that listening to music you like increased dopamine levels by 9%. What’s more interesting is that you don’t even need to hear music to feel this dopamine rush. Simply, the anticipation of listening to a song is good enough to make you feel good. Taking a break every day to put on your headphones to listen to your favourite songs might help you stay in a more joyful state all day.

2. Excercise

Dancing, working out, skating or playing football, any kind of physical exercise you prefer can boost dopamine levels and improve your mood, concentration and motivation for the day. We understand finding the time when you have multiple responsibilities might be difficult. That’s why John Ratey, a renowned psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the brain, shares that even a minimum of 10 minutes of workout (if it’s longer, even better) can enhance your dopamine level when compared to someone who doesn’t. So, why not try stepping out of your sedentary lifestyle and let the child inside you take over to see how rewarding it can be. 

3. Get your sleep

Do you feel sleepy and lazy while working if you haven’t slept the night before? Feeling drowsy and not being able to concentrate are some signs that you are missing your sleep. Every morning dopamine is released to wake you up and keep you alert. So, if you stay awake all night, the dopamine you would require in the morning is all used up at night. Getting a good night’s rest can maintain the balance in your natural dopamine rhythms. So, you function well and stay productive during the day.

4. Spend time in nature

Do you spend most of your time indoors? Do you feel unmotivated and low if you don’t see the sun for days? If you also spend most of your time inside your house or sitting at your workplace, then a change in atmosphere and exposure to sunlight can also increase dopamine levels. Sunlight can lift up your mood and bring hope and energy to start your day. So, it’s common in certain parts of the world for people to feel down when the sun doesn’t show up for days. It’s called seasonal affective disorder and happens because, with no exposure to sunlight, no dopamine is released in your body which is necessary to improve your mood. It’s also important to limit the time you stay under the sun as it can damage your skin. Taking a stroll every day with your dog in the garden or just sitting outside for a few minutes in nature can improve your mood and keep you feeling fresh and active.

5. Touch and social interactions

A therapeutic massage also increases dopamine by 31%, according to a study published in October 2005 by Tiffany Field. It releases stress from your body and relaxes your muscles. Now getting a massage once in a while is possible. But, what can you do every day? Hug someone you love, play around with your pets, talk about your day at the dinner table with your family, all kinds of pleasurable touch and such social interactions increase dopamine in your body. Fitting in some time every day for someone you love and care for can significantly improve your well-being.

6. Gratitude

Feeling grateful for what you have in your life can increase dopamine and make you happier, even if the life circumstances are not in your favour. Jotting down three things you are grateful for every day in a journal can instil hope and make you more humble and happier in the long term. Small habits like these bring pleasant memories to your mind and remind you of the beautiful people around you who have supported you to reach where you are today further, releasing dopamine in your body.

7. Try something new

How did it feel when you went on your first school trip or when you made your first best friend? Or when you had your first crush? You feel a rush of dopamine when you do something for the first time, which is why you might remember how you felt. Cultivating the habit of doing something new every day will not only keep you in high spirits all day but also, help you learn different lessons. Something as simple as trying out a new hobby or recipe. Or, as grand as going to scuba dive can trigger dopamine release. The less familiar you are with the activity, the more likely your brain will reward you with dopamine. What matters is that you tried something new. And the satisfaction you derive in learning and trying it out is good enough to induce dopamine.

8. Little achievements

Don’t you feel relaxed and satisfied every time you tick off an item from your to-do list? Every time you accomplish something, your brain rewards you by releasing dopamine. Be it a small win or a significant achievement, the feel-good chemical released motivates you to win again. Making a to-do list can be a way to celebrate those small victories every day when you tick off a task from that list. You will feel euphoric and be proud of yourself. And getting into this habit, you might be able to stay on top of things and remain productive.

9. Cold showers

This might come as a surprise but taking cold showers can also boost dopamine levels in your body. Now, cold showers in summers may feel like heaven to you but turn into a nightmare during winters. We get your concern. Starting off with a warm shower and slowly decreasing the temperature to finish off with a cold blast gives you the same benefits as a cold shower. The dopamine released wakes you up and kicks start your brain. Would you take a cold shower?

10. Protein-rich food

Being mindful of your diet is also crucial to boosting dopamine levels. A specific amino acid called L-tyrosine is necessary for producing dopamine in your body. And tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods such as almonds, bananas, chicken, soy and dairy products. While increasing protein intake in your diet will help increase dopamine levels in your body, consuming saturated fats, junk food and excessively oil foods can interrupt dopamine production. What you eat determines how you feel and how you feel determines what you eat. Which one do you choose?

Endnote

Adopting some of these habits might improve your lives by 1% today. But this may compound to make a significant difference later in your life. So, which habits do you wish to adopt?

Comment down below if you found the article helpful.

Truly appreciate you taking some time off your busy schedule to read this article. See you soon with more mental health content. Stay tuned until next time. Goodbye!


References

Julson, E. (2022, March 1). 10 best ways to increase dopamine levels naturally. Healthline. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine#5.-Exercise-often

Swaim, E. (2020, January 14). 10 ways to boost dopamine and serotonin naturally. GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/10-ways-to-boost-dopamine-and-serotonin-naturally-1212177

Salimpoor VN;Benovoy M;Larcher K;Dagher A;Zatorre RJ; (n.d.). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature neuroscience. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21217764/

Julson, E. (2022, March 1). 10 best ways to increase dopamine levels naturally. Healthline. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine#5.-Exercise-often

Tsai HY;Chen KC;Yang YK;Chen PS;Yeh TL;Chiu NT;Lee IH; (n.d.). Sunshine-exposure variation of human striatal dopamine D(2)/D(3) receptor availability in healthy volunteers. Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20875835/

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