One of the common subjects in the self-help industry is increasing motivation, focus, and concentration. The demand for the secrets to increasing these have contributed to the said industry’s net worth of $11 billion. But, what if you don’t have to look beyond yourself for the solution to this? What if the key to being driven and focused on success is already within you? This key is learning how to manipulate the neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain, and we'll teach you how to do it in a natural way.
What is Dopamine?
Neurons are nerve cells found in your brain are most commonly known to pass signals to other nerve cells through electrical signals and conduction. However, nerve cells are also capable of communicating via release of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, one of which is dopamine, the main character of this article.
When it's released in the part of your brain known as the substantia nigra, dopamine helps our body initiate speech and movement. However, in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, dopamine is only released when the mind is about to or has received a reward (usually in the form of pleasure or satisfaction). This particular feeling of pleasure has made dopamine known as one of the happiness hormones (like endorphins and serotonin) in popular culture.
The particular rewarding feeling from dopamine caught the attention of researchers which began to look more into the role of dopamine in human motivation. What they found out is that dopamine activates whenever the brain anticipates a reward. This anticipation explains how humans and animals can be conditioned to build habits (both good and bad) by encouraging the actions that trigger dopamine release.
Furthermore, this also explains why our brain finds it easier to focus on tasks that we find fun, rewarding, or engaging. How? Well, studies have found out that concentration is increased when our brain’s prenatal cortex is saturated with various neurotransmitters and hormones. One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine and, for it to provide this effect, it needs to be at its highest levels. And, how do you get high levels of dopamine? That’s right; you need to be having fun.
Low Dopamine Side Effects
Knowing the role of dopamine in our body, we would want it to be at its optimal levels at all times. So, how do we know if we’re in danger when our dopamine levels become too low or unbalanced? Below are the signs that you may be suffering from low levels of dopamine:
- Difficulty in getting motivated
- Loss of memory
- Tendency to procrastinate
- Some experiences that used to be fun or typically fun are not as pleasurable for you
- Low sexual appetite
- Lethargic feeling
- In cases of extremely low dopamine, this can eventually lead to or be a manifestation of Parkinson’s disease. This is due to dopamine’s role in initiating the needed signals in the brain for speech and movement.
With the mentioned side effects, one can see that dopamine is a vital part in our life. These side effects could eventually spill-over into our relationships, jobs, careers, finances, and general enjoyment of our lives. Fortunately, aside from Parkinson’s disease, these side effects can be alleviated through proactive management of one’s dopamine levels. Here are some ways that you can do so.
Produce more Dopamine Following a Diet Rich in Tyrosine
Like any chemical used by our body, dopamine requires the correct building blocks from our diet to be produced. One of these crucial building blocks is the amino acid Tyrosine. When your diet is rich in this amino acid, your body will have no problem producing the necessary dopamine for its many functions.
Foods rich in tyrosine includes: Seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and sesame seeds), apples, avocadoes, bananas, beans (particularly white and adzuki beans), cheese (especially parmesan and gruyere), chocolate, full-fat dairy products, dark leafy vegetables, eggs, fish (especially salmon), green tea and lean beef.
With these foods you are giving your body what it needs to produce more dopamine. But, if you’re looking for a more direct precursor for dopamine production, you can…
Supplement with Mucuna Pruriens
Velvet bean, or Mucuna Pruriens, contains L-Dopa which is the direct precursor to dopamine. Usually Tyrosine is converted into L-Dopa before being converted into dopamine, so by using Mucuna as a supplement you can skip this step. It has been used for Parkinson’s disease in ayurvedic medicine practices and is among the most potent dopamine supplements on the market. Mucuna pruriens is available in its traditional powdered form or as an extract in capsule form. Currently, its extract is being researched for its curative effects on dopamine related diseases and disorders like Parkinson’s disease, sexual dysfunction, and depression.
Use Cold Exposure to Stimulate Dopamine Production
Surprisingly, a cold shower can be seen as a great way of stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain. Initial studies have shown that cold showers have an effect on stimulating the brain which would benefit those with depression. However, follow-up studies have seen that it goes beyond that. According to a 2014 study, dopamine concentrations in the brain have increased by 250% during a one-hour immersion at temperatures of 14 degrees Celsius.
Coffe, Tea and Stimulants
The caffeine found in tea, coffee, and other stimulant beverages prevent adenosine from interacting with its receptor. When adenosine attach with its receptor you will feel tired. While this is happening, your brain increases its production of catecholamines – one of which is dopamine. With these two effects combined, it explains the alertness and wakefulness you normally experience after consuming caffeinated beverages.
Dopamine and Human Growth Hormone
Aside from giving you the focus and motivation you need to achieve your goals, dopamine has also been found to increase the release of testosterone and the human growth hormone. With an increase in testosterone, the body is triggered to increase its muscle mass while decreasing body fat. As for the increase in the human growth hormone (HGH), it has been seen to improve cognitive function, stimulate bone remineralization, and increase muscle strength.
The Key to Boost Dopamine Levels is Balance
As you may have concluded from the low dopamine side effects, the key is getting the right amount. Too much stimuli and you are overloading dopamine receptors that will, eventually, cause them to lose their sensitivity. However, too little dopamine, and your body does not have enough for its use and the mentioned side effects will manifest. Therefore, if one wants to benefit from finding their focus and drive within, one must understand that discipline is needed to leverage dopamine to your advantage.