Dopamine - the magical neurotransmitter
The more I learn about dopamine, the more impressed and excited I am about this magical neurotransmitter. It truly is what makes us human and allows us the potential to be driven and happy in our day to day lives. My mission in life is to create dopamine in everything that I do, for myself, and for others. If I am not having fun, learning, sweating daily, creating, and taking chances, I will not feel that boost of dopamine that gives me the best natural high possible.
Neurotransmitters control communication in the brain. The inability to produce dopamine naturally results in Parkinson's Disease or varying degrees of ADHD. If you have too much dopamine in your system (due to drugs, i.e. cocaine, or disorders), you will have a sense of extreme euphoria, aggression, and intense sexual feelings (too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing).
As is the case for everything in life, the pursuit of balance - between the two extremes - is what we should aim for. When dopamine is released at a healthy rate, depending on the neural pathway it takes, we feel pleasure, a call to action or motivation, increased mood stability, regulation of movement, boost in ability to sleep soundly, increased attention to detail, and increased ability to learn and remember. Doesn't that sound nice??
So how do you ensure that you are getting the most out of your body's potential to create dopamine? There are certain things you can do each day to create the conditions and environment and allow your brain to do the rest.
-Eat foods rich in tyrosine (which your body needs to make dopamine). Almonds, avocados, bananas, low-fat dairy, meat and poultry, lima beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds.
-Avoid sugar as much as possible. Sugar activates the reward system and boosts your dopamine initially. But this quickly drops and then you are left with the craving for more! Get the same high you get from sugar, by eating foods rich in tyrosine or follow one of the other suggestions below.
-Perhaps you have felt that euphoric feeling after a really tough and satisfying workout. That is the endorphins and dopamine pulsing through your body. Exercise increases blood calcium, which stimulates dopamine release and uptake in your brain. Exercise because it feels SO GOOD when you're done. Your body will learn to crave that feeling, which will be enough (most days) to push you past that initial "I don't know if I feel like working out" thought.
-Being rested just makes everything easier. Having dopamine in your body helps you sleep soundly, and getting a good night's sleep will allow your brain to better produce dopamine the following day. It's a beautiful cycle.
4. Set incremental goals
-Setting goals boosts dopamine, dopamine motivates us to get into action, which then gets us working on that goal we set. Achieving a goal, or reflecting on the process to see what we have learned and where we have grown, also boosts dopamine, calling us to set more goals and get into action. So set incremental goals daily to get those small-wins to work in your favour.
5. Supplements, Medications
-For some people, the natural ability to produce dopamine may need a little kick-start. If you feel like you need support, reach out to your doctor to get more details on supplements or medications to help you achieve some balance.
The "Dope-Web": Make a list of 3-5 of the PEOPLE, ACTIVITIES, and ENVIRONMENTS that inspire and motivate you to be your best self. When you are having one of those god-awful lack of motivation, lethargic, self-doubting, pessimistic, "I am in over my head" kind of days, choose one person to reach out to (or all of your people!), one activity, and one environment from your list and get into action. Watch as your day goes from "What the hell is wrong with me?!?" into "Well, wasn't I being silly. I got this under control."
You got this. Get into action and watch your life change for the better, one natural high at a time. xo