I’m going into my third week of a six-week, twenty-pound weight-loss challenge at my local gym, and I have so far lost 5.2 lbs in two weeks. I like how I could see the inches melting off my body, but even more so, I can’t get enough of that “feel good, happy chemical” called dopamine that the body produces from a hard, intense workout.
In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports month and #MoveinMay movement, I thought I would write about ways the body could produce this chemical naturally without taking any medication.
So, what is dopamine? According to BrainMDHealth.com, neurons in the human brain communicate with one another by releasing chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, and dopamine is one of the 100 neurotransmitters in our brain.
It is responsible for how we focus, our attention span, follow-through, motivation, and how we experience pleasure. A lack of dopamine in the brain could be the reason why you may be feeling fatigued or moody, having sugar cravings, having difficulty concentrating, or are forgetful.
Avoid doing this.
Most people think a quick fix like caffeine, nicotine, high-sugar or fat-filled snacks will increase their energy levels, focus, and attention span, but on the contrary: This will only disrupt your body’s natural ability to produce dopamine and will decrease dopamine production in the long term.
Here are 7 ways you can naturally boost dopamine levels.
Eat foods rich in tyrosine. Tyrosine is made from phenylalanine, an essential amino acid your body needs to produce dopamine. Eat foods such as almonds, pumpkin, sesame seeds, bananas, avocados, eggs, lima beans, fish, and chicken.
Exercise regularly. Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Not only does it produce new brain cells, it slows down brain cell aging and increases dopamine levels. The exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. A good walk or climbing some stairs will produce a good dopamine level in your brain.
Meditate. There is plenty of research on the benefits of meditation. It helps you to quiet your mind and relax. In fact, overthinking can reduce dopamine levels in your brain, so learn to meditate.
Get a massage. Stress reduction is a key factor in the ability for your brain to produce dopamine. This is challenging, especially if you are busy like I am. However, studies done on massage therapy have shown it to increase dopamine levels by 30% while reducing cortisol, a stress hormone in the body.
Sleep. Lack of sleep can be a problem for some people, and studies have shown it to reduce concentrations of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and other receptors in the body.
Listen to music. There is a scientific reason music makes us feel so good!It’s not a coincidence that when the playlist is on point at the gym or when you’re listening to your favorite song, you feel pleasure, because it improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you focus and concentrate.
Get focused on something you enjoy. When you’re super-focused on something you feel passionate about, you become happier and feel good. Psychologists actually have a name for this. They say that during these times, we enter a psychological state called “flow.” So go ahead and get passionate about something you enjoy!