Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. It helps regulate movement and emotional responses, enabling the brain to see rewards and move toward them. Dopamine provides enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person to do or continue doing certain activities that provide pleasure. It’s a key factor in motivation, productivity and focus.
When dopamine levels fall due to drug use, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, stress or the habitual use of antidepressants, a person may experience symptoms such as depression, mood swings, poor attention, and food cravings. Keeping your dopamine levels high can boost your mood while keeping you focused and productive, and there are natural ways to do it!
1. Make a To-Do List
When you finish a task, dopamine increases, regardless of the size of the task. Make a list at the beginning of each day or week of things that need done, and check them off as you go. Physically checking a task off of a to-do list is satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels. The sense of accomplishment provides a reward feeling, producing more dopamine in the brain.
2. Get Creative
Getting your creative juices flowing is a great way to naturally increase your potential for feeling good, achieving goals and becoming inspired. When writers, painters, musicians, dancers and other artists get into their creative mode, they become hyper-focused, entering a state referred to as flow. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows a person to achieve flow state. Creative thinking, coming up with ideas and creating something unique will increase your sense of accomplishment and signal your reward center, allowing dopamine to increase.
While the physical benefits of exercise are well-known, the list of mental benefits associated with being active are just as important. Exercise helps to relieve stress and increase productivity. It also boosts dopamine levels. Exercise increases multiple neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. The good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon to feel the effects! Hiking, riding a bike or going for a jog will keep your body active and produce the results you’re looking for.
4. Keep a Streak Going
Continuing to check off points on a list can keep your dopamine levels up! Start a calendar and write down anything continuous that you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to work out Monday through Friday every week, cook healthy meals every Tuesday and Thursday, or finish a new book by the end of each week. Every time you put a check mark next to your goal, you feel a sense of accomplishment that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Keeping a streak going without missing a day is a way to feel proud of yourself, stay productive, and ensure that the dopamine levels in your brain are healthy!
5. Listen to Music
Listening to music that you love increases dopamine levels. Scientists say that listening to your favorite jams has the same effect on the brain as eating your favorite food or watching your favorite television show. Identifying with the lyrics or really feeling the music can make you feel good, deep down to your core. The increase in dopamine is more temporary, but it can provide a quick mood-boost when needed!