Dopamine is a crucial chemical transmitter in the brain that performs a lot of operations.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter—a chemical that helps brain cells communicate with one another. It plays a crucial role in motivation, reward, memory, attention and even in the control of the movement of the body.

High levels and low levels of dopamine

When our body releases dopamine in large amounts, we feel happy and acknowledged, which motivates us to repeat the particular model of behavior which led to the high production of dopamine.  But if the dopamine levels are low we might feel as if we lack motivation and enthusiasm for doing things we have to or would otherwise do.

Usually, dopamine levels are appropriately regulated in the nervous system, but there are some tricks to increase them naturally.

Here are 5 natural proven ways to boost dopamine levels:

1. Stay motivated 

Big goals and big success are important. They give us a purpose to work towards. But small wins are significant, as well. They are inherently short-termed, which is very useful when trying to do bigger tasks. Breaking them into smaller pieces helps to stay motivated and confident throughout the process. And motivation is the key element of success. If you don’t act with motivation, you could fail. Haven’t we all been through this at least once?

Here’s how it works. When we achieve even a small victory our brains release dopamine. As mentioned above dopamine makes it possible to feel pleasure, learn new things, and stay motivated. That’s why when we see that we’ve succeeded, we’re eager to repeat (as previously explained) the actions that led us to this positive outcome. Neuroscientists named this process “self-directed learning.” So achieving small goals is a very effective method to stay motivated in the long term. For example, checking items off of a checklist can help us stay motivated. By performing this action your brain releases small quantities of dopamine that stimulate the motivation to continue checking off more details!

2. Be creative

Writing an award-winning poem, molding sculptures fit for museum exhibitions, and crafting abstract paintings —is it possible that people who have never written or painted before are now doing all these things?

The answer to that question is yes. Professor Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has reported something amazing among her Parkinson’s patients. Some of them took drugs consisting of dopamine which had to ease muscle tremors and rigidity. It turned out that these patients started producing beautiful and sophisticated pieces of art for the very first time. Inzelberg’s published her findings in the Behavioral Neuroscience.

A small-scale Italian study in the European Journal of Neurology revealed a similar link between dopamine therapy in Parkinson’s patients and their creativity. Since the patients started the treatment they’ve been producing poetry, novels, paintings, sketches, and sculptures. Dr. Margherita Canesi, the leading scientist in the study, reported that some patients became so invested in their occupations that they stopped doing other daily activities.

3. Instead of becoming addicted try finding real happiness.

Addictions usually derive from low levels of dopamine in our bodies, or in other words, they are something like a try to resolve an existing problem. When someone lacks satisfaction from within, they would most probably try to get this satisfaction from external sources like material possessions,  experiences or substances that after being consumed ease the emotional (or physical) pain at least for a while.

Here is what Christie Wilcox an award-winning science writer says about dopamine:

“When we receive a reward of any kind, our brains release dopamine. Over time, this stimulus and release of dopamine can lead to learning. Researchers have recently found that how quickly and permanently we learn things relates directly to how much dopamine we have available in our brains. As we get rewarded over and over again for something, we learn that we should keep doing whatever that is very deep, and it’s hard to unlearn those kinds of behaviors. Logically, it’s one of the neurotransmitters targeted for treatment of addictions.”

“Whether chemical or psychological, addictions are made when our brain gets a dopamine boost over and over from a behavior.

We learn not only to associate that behavior with the happy reward but to crave to do that behavior when the rewards aren’t around. Even when there are better, easier, and less destructive ways to make ourselves feel better, our brains are trained to do that one action that it is used to doing – a drug, a drink, sex, whatever – to feel that satisfaction again.”

What is more, addiction is usually a result of previous traumatic events.

The emotions caused by the trauma create a fight-or-flight reaction that becomes a part of your most significant emotions. That is why it is necessary to seek adequate professional help to overcome any past traumas. Specialists could help people change their point of view and start focusing on positive life events and not on painful ones.

So to increase dopamine levels, we need more rewards in our lives. Here how it works. We’ll probably have lower dopamine levels if we don’t (or can’t) fill our day with events and people that make us happy or provide rewards for our efforts. And we’ll increase dopamine in our bodies if we are rewarded for our success or good work.

So, it turns out that the most effective precaution against addictions and the most effective way to boost dopamine levels is to avoid low-rewarding activities and tolerate high-rewarding ones while leading a life full of satisfaction.

4. You should eat particular foods

Bananas are an especially rich source of dopamine. As well as tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, avocados, oranges, spinach, and brussels sprouts which also contain dopamine. But, there’s one problem –  dopamine coming through food doesn’t reach the brain. So, if you want to boost your dopamine level through the food you’ll have to make sure you consume amino acid l-tyrosine (this is what dopamine is made from). It is usually found in protein-rich foods.

Here’s a list of some products that contain l-tyrosine. And also boost dopamine directly:

Avocados, almonds, bananas, beef, chocolate, chicken, coffee, green tea, eggs, watermelon, milk, yogurt. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are foods that have l-dopa, a precursor to dopamine that could treat Parkinson’s disease.

5. Exercise

Exercise is perfect for boosting endorphin levels and influencing our mood positively. On top of that, regular aerobic exercises help people with Parkinson’s disease, a condition that consists of low dopamine levels that disrupt the brain’s ability to control body movements. Several studies have revealed that frequent and intense exercise a few times a week could improve motor control in  Parkinson patients. Therefore it could have a positive effect on the dopamine system.