Dopamine is an important chemical messenger in the brain that has many functions.
It’s involved in reward, motivation, memory, attention and even regulating body movements.
When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivates you to repeat a specific behaviour.
In contrast, low levels of dopamine are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that would excite most people.
Dopamine levels are typically well regulated within the nervous system, but there are some things you can do to naturally increase levels.
Eat more protein - Eating more protein will help top-up your amino acid intake, especially L-tyrosine. This amino acid is a precursor to dopamine and therefore very important.
Eat less saturated fat - Research has shown that consuming high amounts of saturated fat interferes with the dopamine signalling system in your brain.
Consume pro-biotics - In recent years, scientists have discovered that the gut and brain are closely linked. It’s now clear that certain species of bacteria that live in your gut are also capable of producing dopamine, which may impact mood and behaviour.
Eat velvet beans/mucuna pruriens - Velvet beans naturally contain high levels of L-dopa, the precursor molecule to dopamine.
Exercise often and at high intensity - Exercise is recommended for boosting endorphin levels and improving mood. Improvements in mood can be seen after as little as 10 minutes of aerobic activity but tend to be highest after at least 20 minutes.
Get enough sleep, at least 8 hours when possible - When dopamine is released in the brain, it creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness. Animal studies show that dopamine is released in large amounts in the morning when it’s time to wake up and that levels naturally fall in the evening when it’s time to go to sleep. However, lack of sleep appears to disrupt these natural rhythms. When people are forced to stay awake through the night, the availability of dopamine receptors in the brain is dramatically reduced by the next morning
Listen to music - Listening to music can be a fun way to stimulate dopamine release in the brain.
Meditate - Meditation is the practice of clearing your mind, focusing inward and letting your thoughts float by without judgement or attachment. New research has found that these benefits may be due to increased dopamine levels in the brain.
Get enough sun light - Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition in which people feel sad or depressed during the winter season when they are not exposed to enough sunlight. It’s well known that periods of low sunshine exposure can lead to reduced levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and that sunlight exposure can increase them.
Consider taking a L-dopa supplement - L-dopa is extracted from the herb mucuna pruriens and has been shown to assist production of dopamine.
Consider taking a curcumin supplement - Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Curcumin comes in capsule, tea, extract and powdered forms. It’s thought to have antidepressant effects, as it increases the release of dopamine.
Consider taking a ginko biloba supplement - Ginko biloba is a plant native to China that has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for various health conditions. Some studies have found that supplementing with this herb in the long term increased dopamine levels in rats, which helped improve cognitive function, memory and motivation.