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

On the one hand, when our body releases dopamine in large amounts, it makes us feel happy and acknowledged, which motivates us to repeat a particular model of behavior.  On the other hand, low levels of dopamine are the reason for the lack of motivation and enthusiasm for different things.

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

It is when we achieve even small success when our brains release dopamine. As mentioned above dopamine is related to the feelings of pleasure, learning, and motivation. And when we feel its effects, we’re eager to repeat (as previously explained) the actions that lead to success. Neuroscientists named this process “self-directed learning.” This is why 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. This action releases small quantities of dopamine that then motivate us 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 discovering these talents in themselves?

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 used 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 explained a similar link between dopamine therapy in Parkinson’s patients and their creativity Since they started the treatment the patients began to produce 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, or in other words, addiction is something like a try to resolve an existing problem. When our personality lacks fulfillment from within, it would most probably seek ways to achieve this fulfillment from elsewhere usually through objects, substances or events that ease the pain of the soul (and the body sometimes) 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 find professional or at least adequate help in overcoming any past trauma. Doing so would make you perceive more rewarding life events instead of analyzing painful ones.

So to increase dopamine levels, you need to increase the rewards in your lifestyle. The truth is that you might feel less satisfied because of low dopamine when you’re not (or you can’t) fill your day with events and people that make you happy or provide rewards for your efforts related to them. Ultimately, it turns out that the most effective precaution against addictions and the most significant way to boost dopamine levels is to avoid low-rewarding activities. And tolerate rewarding activities while leading a life full of satisfaction.

4. You should eat these foods

Bananas are a particularly rich source of dopamine. And tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, avocados, oranges, spinach, and brussels sprouts also contain some dopamine. But, the dopamine consumed through food doesn’t reach to the brain. So, if you want to boost your dopamine level with food you’ll have to take amino acid l-tyrosine (this is what dopamine is made up from). We usually find it 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 one of the few 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 the top of that, regular aerobic exercises benefit people with Parkinson’s disease, a condition in which low dopamine levels disrupts the brain’s ability to control body movements. Several studies have revealed that frequent intense exercise a few times a week improve motor control in  Parkinson patients suggesting that there may have a positive effect on the dopamine system.