Improve your health by learning
Mental Health
Wellness
< Go back

Dopamine: What It Is and How to Boost It Naturally

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
June 12, 2023
December 18, 2023

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in several key brain functions, including motivation, pleasure, reward, and movement control. Its levels can affect various aspects of our lives, including our mood, behavior, and cognition. Read on, or watch the video below:

How Dopamine Works In The Brain

Dopamine works by transmitting signals between neurons in the brain. When a neuron releases dopamine, it travels across a small gap called a synapse to bind to specific dopamine receptors on another neuron. This binding triggers a series of chemical reactions within the second neuron, which can result in changes in the neuron's activity and behavior.

Dopamine is produced in several regions of the brain, and there are five types of dopamine receptors, each with a different function and distribution in the brain. The effects of dopamine depend on the location and density of dopamine receptors in the brain. For example, dopamine release in the striatum, a region involved in movement control, can promote motor activity, while dopamine release in the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in decision-making and planning, can improve cognitive function and working memory.

Dopamine levels are tightly regulated in the brain to ensure optimal function. Too much or too little dopamine can have negative effects on mood, behavior, and cognition. For example, low dopamine levels have been associated with depression, while high dopamine levels have been linked to addiction and psychotic symptoms.

When Do You Want Higher Vs Lower Dopamine Levels?

You want lower dopamine levels if you have:

  1. Addiction: High dopamine levels can be associated with addiction and compulsive behaviors. For example, addiction to drugs, gambling, or social media can be linked to increased dopamine release in certain brain regions.
  2. Anxiety: When dopamine levels are too high, it can cause anxiety and agitation.
  3. Psychosis: In some cases, high dopamine levels can cause psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.
  4. Schizophrenia: People with schizophrenia typically have higher levels of dopamine activity in certain regions of the brain. Antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, so your dopamine levels should be a little lower to help manage the effects of the condition.

You want higher dopamine levels if you are trying to:

If you are trying to feel more positive, energetic, or motivated, dopamine may help! High levels of dopamine may help reduce risk or symptoms of depression, reduce frequency and impact of negative thoughts, or improve your concentration and focus.

  1. Increase motivation: Dopamine is often associated with motivation and reward-seeking behavior. When dopamine levels are high, you may feel more motivated to take action, work towards your goals, and seek out new challenges.
  2. Improve focus and concentration: Dopamine can help improve cognitive function, including focus and concentration. When dopamine levels are optimal, you may find it easier to concentrate on tasks and stay productive.
  3. Boost mood and positivity: Dopamine is sometimes called the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. When dopamine levels are high, you may experience a sense of pleasure and positive mood.
  4. You have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): In some cases, low dopamine levels can be associated with ADHD. Medications used to treat ADHD can help increase dopamine levels in the brain.
  5. You have Parkinson's disease: Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by low dopamine levels in the brain. Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease can help increase dopamine levels and improve symptoms.

Since dopamine helps to control mood, concentration, focus, and happiness, you may want to find natural ways to boost dopamine levels while still seeking help from a mental health professional.

Here’s how you can boost dopamine levels naturally:

There are several ways to naturally boost dopamine levels in the brain. Here are some methods:

  • Exercise: Exercise is one of the best and easiest ways to boost dopamine.
Exercise more! It boosts endorphins, raises dopamine levels, and enhances feelings of pleasure and reward.
  • Eat foods rich in tyrosine: Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a precursor to dopamine.
Want to boost your dopamine levels? Eat tyrosine-rich foods: almonds, avocados, bananas, beans, eggs, and chicken.
  • Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can lower dopamine levels. Getting enough sleep can help restore optimal dopamine levels and improve mood and cognitive function.
  • Listen to music: Listening to music that you enjoy can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain and promote feelings of pleasure and reward.
  • Practice meditation: Meditation has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Regular meditation can help improve mood, reduce stress, and increase focus and concentration.
  • Set goals: When making that New Year's resolution, be sure to set personalized, achievable goals.
Boost your dopamine by setting achievable goals and meeting them! You'll experience reward as you accomplish each one.
  • Spend time in nature: Spending time in nature can help increase dopamine levels and improve mood. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can help reduce stress and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Takeaways

It's important to note that some activities, such as drug use, can artificially increase dopamine levels but can also have negative effects on mental and physical health in the long term. Instead, focus on natural ways to boost dopamine levels. And ALWAYS, seek professional help from your physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist to assist you in reaching your optimum mental health status healthfully and with control.

Can’t find what you need?

Contact Us