Feel Good For Mental Health: How To Use Dopamine To Your Advantage

Dopamine, often referred to as our body’s ‘Reward Chemical’, actually has fantastic brain health benefits on top of making us feel good! In the below video, Eric Marr describes how Dopamine drives us forward as well as quick ways to boost our Dopamine levels.

Eric Marr - TEDx - Dopamine's Effects on Learning and Memory

Dopamine Boosts Mood, Cognition, Memory & Learning
Dopamine is our ‘Reward Chemical.’

Every time you learn something new, complete a goal or eat some great tasting food, Dopamine gets released into your nervous system, making you feel good.

Research has also shown that if Dopamine gets released in your brain before or during learning something new, you are far more likely to retain that information.

In other words, it boosts memory and learning capacity, as well as mood or cognition. Dopamine release also encourages neurogenesis, to allow for more Dopamine to dock.

Interestingly, learning something new that surprises or engages our minds also releases Dopamine. It appears to be closely associated with driving us forward toward new things.

In those who suffer from clinical depression and quite a few neurological diseases, there is a lack of this reward chemical which contributes to a lack of motivation, happiness, and quality of life.

A lack of Dopamine can be due to not having enough of the natural building blocks required by our bodies to make Dopamine as well as having either too many or too few Dopamine receptors.

The Dangers of Too Much Dopamine
As Daniel expresses above, we need Dopamine to drive us forward in life. It was designed to reward us for good behaviors and push us toward optimal survival.

However, Dopamine can be easily abused.

If you over-indulge in Dopamine, your brain will keep on growing more neurons until it reaches a saturation point where it can no longer do so, and it can not possibly hold any more Dopamine.

When this happens, it will feel as though nothing you do is rewarding enough. This is one reason why those who use a drug such as Cocaine need more and more of it to get the same feeling, but it ultimately leads to being unable to feel rewarded at all.

If Dopamine levels plateau to this point, there is both a danger in losing neurons as well as plummeting down to an all-time low and acquiring depression.

In this regard, Dopamine can be viewed as an addictive drug if misused.

Thankfully, there are natural ways to use Dopamine safely to enhance your brain power. The trick is not to spike your Dopamine levels unnaturally, keeping your brain and body in balance.

8 Ways To Keep Your Dopamine Levels Healthy
Here are eight ways you can use Dopamine to unlock your brain’s fullest potential without destroying yourself!
1) Dopamine Precursor Supplements
Instead of doing something that floods your system with Dopamine (like amphetamines, drugs, excessive amounts of sugar, alcohol or smoking), it’s far safer to consume the building blocks that Dopamine is made from regularly.

This enables your body to decide when is the best time to release that feeling of reward naturally and does not encourage a drastic surge of Dopamine.

Here are some great neuro-boosting supplements that also help your brain to make that feel-good molecule!
2) Tyrosine-Rich Foods
Tyrosine is an essential amino acid and the primary ingredient when it comes to making Dopamine in the body.

Here are some fantastic Tyrosine-rich foods that you can include in your diet to make the most of feeling rewarded!

Avocadoes and almonds are both rich in Tyrosine and brain-healthy fats, helping to prevent neurodegeneration and making you feel good!

Pure cacao or dark chocolate is high in at least 5 Dopamine building blocks.

Science has also confirmed that it preserves the natural states of Dopamine and other blissful chemicals in the brain, as well as being excellent at boosting cognition and protecting your brain from harm!

Green Tea has a rich antioxidant content and has been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure, improve quality of sleep and helps to lower risks associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

It is also rich in Tyrosine and L-Theanine, two building blocks required for Dopamine production.

3) Exercise
Exercise is a powerful tool for feeling good as well as boosting cognition.

Not only will it boost your levels of Dopamine, but it will also increase the amount of Endorphins and Serotonin as well, both of which are needed to feel really good, keep clarity of mind, and reduce pain.

4) Social Interactions & Connection
Get out there and be social!

Dopamine is released when we have positive social interactions with our friends and family members. Oxytocin is another feel-good molecule that comes hand-in-hand with Dopamine in positive social interactions, the trust or bonding chemical.

Oxytocin encourages empathy and also enhances neurogenesis as well as neuroplasticity in your brain – it gives you a better ability to think in others’ shoes!

Social media will also release Dopamine every time you get a like (which counts as a reward). However, this is not the best way to get the connection you need as it lacks oxytocin and can also flood your system with too much Dopamine. Try to use social media in moderation to keep your Dopamine levels optimal.

Making love is another social activity that releases Dopamine, Endorphins, and oxytocin. It combines the benefits of exercise and social bonding all in one. While this is a naturally pleasurable act, it can also spiral down into a Dopamine addiction and should be done in moderation.

5) Do Rewarding Things
It turns out that following your dreams and passions is a very healthy thing to do!

Every time you complete a goal or tick a task off your to-do list, you will get some Dopamine and improve your brain health.

This is what Dopamine was intended to support – the process of motivating you to move forward in your life, to better your position for optimal survival.

Using Dopamine in this way is one of the most fulfilling ways to boost your brain power and get the most out of your life.

6) Laugh A Lot
Humor and excitement both release Dopamine.

This is why telling a joke or a funny story in class helps learners to retain the information as it forms a positive association that holds a reward – a small release of Dopamine.

Tell jokes, watch stand-up comedians, keep things light and don’t take life too seriously. You may find that when you are relaxed, smiling and maintaining a moderate supply of Dopamine in your brain, solutions to problems will flow easier!

Humor at work has many other benefits, including more teamwork and cooperation amongst coworkers. It links hand-in-hand with unlocking social cognition and tends to increase your mental capacity more than other Dopamine-releasing activities.

7) Be Creative
Being creative also releases Dopamine as it is both rewarding and teaching you something new – or should I say, pushing you to accomplish new feats.

With each creative endeavor you undertake, whether writing a poem, coloring in a line drawing or even decorating your living room, you will never know where it will take you. If you keep at it until you reach an outcome you are satisfied with; you will often end up with the immense satisfaction of an unexpected reward.

Creativity also encourages you to use more areas of your brain than you would normally, which promotes neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.

Think outside the box and have fun with it!

Learning to play a musical instrument is a creative endeavor has been proven to increase the size of the brain!

8) Reduce Stress
It’s imperative to minimize stress if you want to enhance your brain power – especially when it comes to Dopamine or any other feel-good chemicals.

Stress inhibits Dopamine production, as well as clamping down on many other feel-good chemicals.

Many people who are frequently stressed out will often find themselves wrapped up in some form of Dopamine addiction because they can never seem to get enough to be satisfied. Dopamine appears to be the quickest way out of this catch-22 cycle, yet it will ultimately lead to depression.

It’s much better to reduce your stress levels so you can benefit from Dopamine naturally. Not to mention, stress helps to create neuro-inflammation, which contributes significantly to just about every neurodegenerative disorder out there.

Meditation is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and you can do it no matter where you are!

Enhance your focus, reduce stress, and get a grip on how you perceive the world through learning how to meditate!

Eating anti-inflammatory foods can also help to decrease stress, such as turmeric and Gingko Biloba – both of which can also improve your Dopamine levels without burning you out!

The anti-inflammatory powers of turmeric can’t be denied. This powerful spice has been used in a many different systems of medicine (such as Ayurveda) to help with just about every chronic lifestyle disease.
Gingko Biloba is a calming herb with powerful anti-depressant properties. It is also used for enhancing energy levels, memory and cognition.

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