Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gets you back on track when feeling distracted, fatigued, apathetic, lacking focus or struggling to finish simple tasks.
Also known as the motivation molecule, dopamine is essential for optimal brain health, brain function, and healthy behavior. An imbalance or low levels of dopamine can determine many aspects of your life.
For example, impaired dopamine production can lead to problems with focus, forgetfulness, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, sugar cravings, and unhealthy negative habits.
Luckily, there are many ways to increase dopamine naturally. Some lifestyle changes like adopting a healthy diet can assist the dopamine system in producing more of it in the central nervous system and maintaining proper levels.
What are the best tips on making that the brain increases dopamine naturally?
1. Get Enough Sleep
Dopamine plays a part in getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to problems with memory, focus and concentration, attention span, lower motivation, insomnia, and even sugar cravings.
Disrupted sleep patterns can affect the natural dopamine production process making it hard to sleep well, manage stress, and stay alert.
In this case, dopamine helps, along with melatonin, to regulate the sleep-wake cycle so that you feel more awakened and attentive during the day and rest peacefully at night.
Findings from brain imaging studies show that the human brain has high levels of dopamine in the morning, but there is less dopamine in the brain near bedtime.
For example, in one study, researchers found that people who stayed awake throughout the night had reduced dopamine receptor availability the following morning (1).
It is crucial to get adequate hours of sleep at night to restore and control levels of dopamine in your brain. It is a safe and natural way to increase dopamine levels.
2. Listen to Music
Listening to music can naturally increase dopamine levels in the brain (2).
Several studies using brain imaging determine that listening to music activates the rewarding process and pleasure centers in the brain where multiple dopamine receptors are located.
It also offers the added benefits of improved mood, reduces anxiety, slows the heart and breathing rates, lowers blood pressure, and can ease pain and stress.
In addition, playing music yourself can boost dopamine levels much more than simply listening to music. One study found that music may even help individuals with Parkinson’s disease reform their fine motor skills and control (3).
Other pleasurable activities such as eating, having sex, shopping, or anything you desire, or letting you experience pleasure can also have the same effect and help raise dopamine levels.
3. Exercise Regularly
Researchers have discovered that regular exercise increases dopamine levels making physical exercise one of the most useful ways to boost dopamine levels and enhance mood.
Exercise can increase the production of new brain cells and slow down brain cell aging while acting on serotonin and norepinephrine levels and help handle stressful circumstances.
To boost increased dopamine release, aim to perform an aerobic activity or cardio cardiovascular exercise every day and keep energy levels.
Regular exercise can, over time, remodel the dopamine reward system. This causes higher levels of dopamine to circulate and makes it more available to dopamine receptors.
The same can also repair any damage caused to dopamine receptors by addictive habits such as substance abuse. Addiction of any kind can lower the level of dopamine in the brain and limit its availability in the reward system.
Consequently, anyone struggling with addiction starts to feel depressed, unmotivated, and antisocial. But, the low dose jolt society that excise provides to the reward centers can reverse this.
Even something like massage therapy can help. Some research suggests that when you get a massage, it may be able to raise dopamine levels in your brain while decreasing cortisol, also known as the stress hormone (4)
Some people take a cold shower as cold showers can substantially increase in dopamine levels, as extensively as 250%. Many even believe that cold exposure may be linked to feeling happier, energized, and more productive.
4. Learn To Meditate
One of the natural ways to increase your dopamine boost is to use meditation. One study shows researchers using brain scan imaging to confirm that meditation naturally increases dopamine release by 65% and reduces stress (5)
People who use meditation to manage symptoms of a dopamine deficiency find that the practice can help reduce stress, enhance mood, and offer other physical and mental health benefits.
Whereas a low dopamine level can bring about a lack of motivation, fatigue, mood swings, and memory loss, meditation can help reverse some of these effects and is linked to improved energy levels.
Since meditation, much like music, shows brain changes, both activities are associated with positive emotions and better emotional control.
Research indicates that other relaxing activities such as yoga and tai chi also increase the release of dopamine that helps boost motivation while reducing stress.
5. Take Supplements
You can also boost dopamine levels by taking supplements and nootropics.
Dopamine-enhancing supplements provide the raw materials for your brain to make more dopamine and safely increase your dopamine levels naturally.
These will usually include a variety of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6, folate, iron, and niacin (6). Research establishes that a deficiency of any of these could cause low dopamine levels.
Therefore, people often take ginkgo Biloba, arctic root, curcumin, turmeric magnesium, l theanine, and green tea in supplement form to increase dopamine levels.
A combination of vitamins, minerals, nootropics, and antioxidants optimally work when combined in supplement form.
For example, some nootropic supplements will increase the amount of dopamine available, whereas others keep it from being broken down too quickly.
Other supplements may increase the number of dopamine receptors or assist existing receptors to work better. Dietary supplements, however, are not intended to treat or cure depression or other mood disorders.
Nevertheless, people who suffer from a mood disorder but function well using their coping mechanisms may find that supplements help them maintain their mood and reduce stress.
Others who struggle with more severe mental illnesses may not find supplements adequately helpful. That being said, it is always recommended to consult with your doctor if you are using any medication before you start using dietary supplements.
6. Get More Vitamins and Minerals
One of the best ways to correct low dopamine levels is through nutrition. For a quick boost of dopamine levels, look for antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals as dopamine gets oxidized easily.
Vitamins C and E can ward off damage inflicted by free radicals and protect brain cells that utilize dopamine. Likewise, vitamins B, niacin, folic acid, iron, and tyrosine increase dopamine levels naturally.
Magnesium is another excellent candidate for keeping dopamine levels up. Since it has antidepressant properties, there is some evidence that a magnesium deficiency may escalate decreased dopamine levels while increasing the risk of depression (7).
Another area where the proper nutrients can help is when struggling with mental health conditions.
For instance, the dopamine deficient may become susceptible to mental health conditions involving cognitive functioning like Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders in more severe cases.
In these cases, experts recommend a combination of medication and the right dietary choices to manage symptoms.
More research is needed to verify how these nutrients help, but it is definite that dietary changes make a difference.
7. Consume Probiotics
Given the science behind the gut-brain axis, making probiotics part of a balanced diet makes sense.
Probiotics are essential for gut health and many other bodily functions and can increase dopamine production and improve mood, as observed in human and animal studies.
This is because probiotics can help balance gut bacteria by flushing out dangerous toxins and protecting healthy bacteria. The overall effect of this balance reflects an improved mood, reduced depression and anxiety, and other positive behaviors (8).
It is easy to include probiotics into the diet by consuming yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso, or other fermented foods. You could also take a dietary supplement to boost your dopamine levels.
Even though the evidence points to a connection between consuming probiotics and improved mood, the exact mechanism of dopamine is still not well understood.
8. Eat Dopamine Boosting Foods
Decreased dopamine production may also result from eating the wrong types of foods. Therefore, most people with low dopamine levels are advised to include additional protein into their diet for boosting dopamine levels.
This is because the amino acids in proteins are referred to as the body’s building blocks.
Of the various essential amino acids, one that crucially increases the release of dopamine is tyrosine. Dopamine synthesis involves converting the amino acid tyrosine to the dopamine precursor called L dopa.
Tyrosine can be commonly found in protein-dense items such as soy products, dairy, eggs, beef, turkey, and legumes.
Research shows that eating such protein-rich foods are excellent dopamine boosters and can help with increasing dopamine levels.
If you take a tyrosine supplement, make sure to have it before meals, preferably divided into three daily doses. Your body may use the tyrosine released more effectively if you take it with B6, curcumin, folate, and copper (9).
Other choices to add to the diet include those with omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids may help prevent and treat depression or depressive symptoms.
Seniors with a dopamine deficiency or those with low dopamine levels may also be at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia and should improve their diet as one of the ways to increase dopamine and achieve desired levels.
Dopamine-boosting foods come with their own health benefits and can help with mood swings.
9. Reduce Saturated Fat and Sugars Intake
Both human and animal studies show that large amounts of dopamine lead to a feeling of reward and pleasure. This motivates you to repeat addictive behaviors, leading to more dopamine being released.
Dietary habits like drinking coffee or experiencing a sugar high can work to boost your natural dopamine levels. But, as you engage more in these or any other addictive behavior, the more dopamine receptors in the brain get depressed.
So, while nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and fat-filled treats can all trigger a dopamine boost, they can also end up as the root cause of addiction.
By disrupting the natural production of dopamine in your body and boosting higher levels, you can end up interfering with the long-term production of this neurotransmitter (10).
As such, a dopamine fix that can increase pleasurable feelings in the short term can also present long-term consequences.
It is essential to follow a healthy diet to regulate dopamine levels. Try to reduce concentrations of animal fat and other saturated fats, including palm oil and coconut oil.
Also, minimize sugar-laden foods, caffeine, and replace them with essential fats, the amino acid tyrosine, eggs, bananas, nuts, and seeds.
More research is needed in this area, but it is evident that addictive habits and dopamine are closely linked in many ways.
10. Get More Sunlight
One of the best natural ways to raise dopamine activity is increasing your exposure to sunlight.
Around 10 million Americans are affected by SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition where inadequate sun exposure triggers symptoms and feelings of stress, sadness, or depression.
It can impact various aspects of focus and concentration, energy, productive output, and motivation.
Prolonged periods of not being exposed to enough sunlight can deplete dopamine levels in the body, whereas staying in the sun can improve mood and energy and help you stay motivated.
The sun’s rays help increase the number of dopamine receptors and produce vitamin D, which activates the genes that release dopamine (11).
In areas with very little to no sun, light therapy is used to treat SAD. The process uses a lightbox that regulates dopamine and serotonin levels to relieve depressive symptoms.
The focus of the treatment is to increase energy levels and improve mood and is best suited for people who need help surviving the winter or if they work nights.
A healthy balance is integral to enjoying the happiness that dopamine can deliver. Conversely, producing dopamine inadequately or in a large amount can cause many problems.
For instance, generally increased dopamine levels can trigger addiction, while low levels can affect brain health and contribute to other health concerns.
In addition, treatment with certain medications, including prescription drugs, recreational drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, nicotine, and other unhealthy ways, can all lower dopamine levels and impact dopamine regulation.
To increase dopamine naturally, physical activity, a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, and light therapy can be helpful to include into your daily routine.
Instead of boosting dopamine rewards for instant gratification, a superior approach is to support the body’s ability to produce dopamine in appropriate amounts and at proper times.