Updated: Jul 31
Chances are that at some point in your life you’ve heard the term “dopamine.” Commonly known as a “feel-good” brain chemical, dopamine plays an important role in the brain’s reward system – if you’ve ever eaten a piece of chocolate and thought, just one more bite, you can thank dopamine for that response. And while a bite of chocolate may trigger a quick dopamine fix, these types of triggers have been shown to ultimately decrease dopamine levels over time.
What is a Dopamine Imbalance?
This neurotransmitter plays a role in much more than just our reward system too. Dopamine levels contribute to mood, sleep, focus, and memory, among other areas, which is why an imbalance could impact how you feel. Some research suggests that a dopamine deficiency could be associated with depression, although the connection isn’t fully understood yet.
Some symptoms of a dopamine deficiency include:
Lack of focus
Feeling hopeless, guilty, or inexplicably sad
Feelings of anxiety
If you’re unsure of your dopamine levels and would like to learn more, talk to your doctor about testing. The good news is that there are several effective, med-free ways that may help boost your dopamine levels, according to research.
Try these four methods to increase dopamine naturally:
Exercise We all know by now that exercise is good for us. Aside from keeping our waistlines trim, exercising releases endorphins, which can act as a natural mood booster. While this endorphin boost isn’t the same as a change in dopamine, it may help improve mood in the short-term. One study found that practicing yoga for an hour a day, six days a week, significantly increased dopamine levels after a three-month period. While more research needs to be done, these results offer a positive outlook on the effects of exercise on dopamine levels. And regardless, exercise is great for brain health overall.
Sleep Well One way to help encourage your brain to regulate dopamine production is to get adequate sleep. Studies suggest that dopamine levels naturally rise in the morning when it’s time to wake up and fall in the evening when it’s time for bed. So, by staying up late and sleeping in, this natural rhythm can be disrupted. Working on practicing good sleep hygiene is a great place to start. Try avoiding any screen time an hour before you’d like to go to bed. Keep your bedroom cool (around 68 degrees) and resist the urge to work or scroll on your phone from bed.
Eat More Protein You may or may not have heard of an amino acid called tyrosine. Amino acids are what make up proteins, and tyrosine, in particular, plays an important role in the production of dopamine. Studies have linked eating a tyrosine-rich diet to higher levels of dopamine. Chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes are great, protein-heavy foods that are easily incorporated into most diets. You can also add in other tyrosine boosters like avocados, broccoli, spinach, and kale to your diet as well.
Meditate While meditation itself is nothing new, research is starting to find new benefits. Many studies have linked meditation to improved mental health (like reduced stress and anxiety). One study found an association between an hour-long meditation session and roughly a 65% increase in dopamine levels. There’s room for more research regarding this particular correlation, but meditation has been shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms, improve mood, lower blood pressure, and more. If you’d like to give it try, try this easy meditation exercise.
Remember that it’s normal to feel down from time to time, but when your symptoms begin to affect your quality of life, it might be time to talk to your doctor. Depression is a manageable condition with many different treatment options, so it’s just a matter of finding the option that will work best for you.
If you’d like to learn more about Neuropeak Pro's brain training program, give us a call at 800.600.4096. We’d be happy to chat about how our program may be able to help you.
BrainMD. (2017, March 28). “7 ways to Boost Dopamine, Focus and Energy.” Retrieved from https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/7-ways-to-boost-dopamine-focus-and-energy/
Cadman, Bethany. (2018, January 17). “Dopamine Deficiency: What You Need to Know.” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320637.php
Jade, Kathleen. (2018, June 21). “Dopamine Supplements to Improve Depression Symptoms, Mood, and Motivation.” Retrieved from https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/depression/dopamine-supplements-for-improving-mood-and-motivation/
Julson, Erica. (2018, May 10). “10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine