How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

By Sher Warkentin in Healthy Feeling

Dopamine is the chemical messenger in your brain responsible for transmitting feelings of pleasure. From exercising to listening to music, check out these easy tips on how to increase dopamine naturally.

What Is Dopamine?

According to Psychology Today, dopamine is a neurotransmitter—a naturally occurring chemical in the body that helps to send information between neurons. The body has many neurotransmitters, but dopamine in particular is responsible for contributing to feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. Dopamine boosts mood, motivation, and attention. It also helps to regulate movement, learning, and emotional responses. Dopamine deficiency is linked with depressive disorders.

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

There are many simple steps you can take to increase dopamine without medication. Consider trying one or more of these natural ways to help depression, but always seek professional treatment first if you are suffering from symptoms of depression.

Get Moving

When I'm having a particularly stressful day, there is one thing that always gives me an encouraging boost: a good workout. As Psychology Today explains, exercise has several health benefits for the brain. More research is needed in humans to confirm the connection between exercise and the dopamine system, but there's no denying the feeling you get after a workout. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to help you stay energized and happy.

Learn to Meditate

The practice of meditation has many benefits, not the least of which is an increase in dopamine production. A clinical study published in Cognitive Brain Research found that the practice of meditation was linked to a 65 percent increase in endogenous dopamine release.

Exercise and meditation can help boost dopamine levels.

Adjust Your Diet

The saying "you are what you eat" might just be true. As Mount Sinai explains, tyrosine is an amino acid that plays an essential part in the production of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Foods such as soy, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds all contain tyrosine. Researchers believe that eating a diet rich in tyrosine might help to reduce the symptoms of depression since people who are depressed have low levels of tyrosine. However, studies have yet to show a connection between tyrosine consumption and depression treatment.

Make a Playlist

There's no doubt that music can have a powerful impact on your mood. Whether a sad song makes you cry or an upbeat tune gets you dancing on your feet, it can feel like there's a song for every emotion. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found that dopamine levels were increased in participants listening to music they enjoyed. You could test it out by compiling a mood-boosting playlist to listen to when you're feeling blue.

Woman listening to music in cafe

Get a Massage

It's hard to argue with the benefits of massage. Not only does a massage feel good, but it can actually elicit a neurological response. One study in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that massage therapy caused an average increase of 31 percent in dopamine levels. In addition, a review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine noted that massage coupled with essential oils could help to relieve symptoms of depression.

Get Plenty of Rest

The positive effects of dopamine, such as feeling motivated and focused, don't just rely on dopamine levels. Dopamine receptors are also an integral part of the process. Unfortunately, those receptors can be negatively affected when you don't get enough sleep. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that sleep deprivation was linked to downregulation of certain dopamine receptors. To help ensure that your central nervous system is functioning as it should, getting a good night's sleep might make all the difference.

Get Outdoors

Getting outside and going for a hike or doing some gardening always helps to lift my spirits when I'm feeling down, and there may be a scientific reason behind that. A study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry found that the availability of certain dopamine receptors was significantly higher in subjects with high levels of sun exposure versus those with low-level exposure. So, if you're feeling down, get out and get some sunshine!

You've probably noticed that all of these ways to increase dopamine naturally are linked. They all, in one way or another, involve self-care. It can be easy to forget your own care when you're busy with kids or work, but it's important. Whether you treat yourself to a massage or get some much-needed sleep, paying attention to your well-being can go a long way to improving your overall mood. If you are suffering from symptoms of depression, however, you should seek medical advice from a professional.

To discover more ideas for taking care of your mind and body naturally, check out the DIY Naturally board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!

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Why It's Good

If you're feeling unmotivated and down, a little self-care could make all the difference. There are plenty of simple ways you can boost dopamine naturally.