Believe it or not, we each have the ability to hack our own neurotransmitters to support us in feeling more alive, connected, blissful, focused or motivated.
Today, we're honing in on one neurotransmitter in particular; Dopamine.
So first let's get clear on what a neurotransmitter actually is...
A neurotransmitter (neuro meaning brain, transmitter to ‘transmit’ information); is a “messenger” that sends signals between brain cells.
Dopamine specifically, creates feelings of pleasure and reward that motivate us to repeat behaviours, and is involved in extensive human behavioural traits, from mood regulation, the way we move, to our focus, and our sense of motivation.
Have you ever been in a world of pleasure eating the most mouth-gasmic food?
How about when you slay the gym and have and smash your workout?
Or what about when you finish a task that’s taken weeks or months to achieve?
That’s our friend dopamine.
It’s one of the ways in which we feel achievement, fulfilment, bliss, euphoria, and motivation. If your brain doesn’t get enough of it, we start to feel sluggish, flat, and our brain function can become impaired.
Here are our 7 favourite, research based ways to naturally boost dopamine:
Sunlight; this just makes sense, as we’re basically a solar panel with emotions. Extensive research suggests that sunlight helps to synthesise dopamine.
Cold exposure; we know this is probably the most inconvenient and discomforting one, but that’s exactly the point - much like exercise, it’s controlled discomfort. The research on this is very clear - safe, controlled cold exposure (cold showers, ocean dips, or if you’re really game, an ice bath) is one of the best ways to increase dopamine production and feelings of motivation.
Exercise; we invite you to consider, what do you actually love to do that involves moving and elevating your heart rate? Whatever it is, do it, and do lot’s of it. Challenging yourself and moving your body in the way you love, is essential for health, happiness, and especially the release of dopamine.
Mindfulness & meditation; the research is also very clear in this area - those who practice mindfulness and/or meditation have higher circulating levels of dopamine in the brain. Using simple breathing techniques in a mindfulness practice, having your own meditation practice, or using a phone app are all great ways to quiet your mind and receive a small but powerful hit of dopamine.
Listen to inspiring or uplifting music; if you’ve ever listened to your favourite uplifting tunes before running or hitting the gym, you know what we’re talking about!
Eat enough whole foods; especially to meet adequate protein needs. Tyrosine is an amino acid (which comes from protein sources) that is required for dopamine production (as well as a less important, but still essential amino acid, phenylalanine). Eating enough wholesome protein rich foods is essential for dopamine synthesis - foods like salmon & other seafood, nuts & seeds, pasture raised eggs, tyrosine rich fruits like kiwi fruit, avocados, jackfruit & cranberries, grass-fed meats, and poultry, just to name a few.
Sleep; we spend one third of our lives (well, we’re supposed to) asleep. Aim to create a consistent bedtime, and a consistent wake up time - our brains and bodies perform much better with consistency, and getting adequate restful sleep is key to ensuring your brain is producing adequate amounts of dopamine.
Get familiar with your relationship to dopamine, try something new, and you may surprise yourself at how much more focused & motivated you are.