Productivity Tips

10 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity

By April 20, 2015 16 Comments

Psst, hey you. Want some dope? What do you mean you don’t do drugs? Hey hold on, don’t call the cops on me!

Okay, I see the confusion. I actually meant dopamine. Isn’t dope short for dopamine? No? Huh, you learn something new everyday.

Increase Dopamine = More Productivity

What’s dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that our brain produces to nudge us into doing stuff. It’s the main reason why we can focus and achieve great things even if the payout isn’t immediate or obvious.

And don’t worry, you can’t even take dopamine since it’s something your brain produces for itself. But what you can do is increase dopamine in your system to help you stay focused, productive and motivated. If you want to be productive and get things done, here’s a few ways to boost your dopamine levels.

1. Discover New Things

Dopamine production is actually triggered when we find something new and exciting in front of us. Our ancestors would experience it when discovering new herds to hunt or new plants to harvest. Unless you’re a naturalist, it’s probably going to be hard to do those things. But we do have the internet.

The internet is a treasure trove for discovering new music to new videos. A simple dopamine booster is browsing Pinterest or even Amazon for new products and items. A word of caution: it will get addictive so make sure to limit your time on sites like these.

2. List Down Your Small Tasks

Dopamine is also released after you finish something, whether it’s a big job or a small task. So it follows that To get more hits, break down those big jobs into smaller ones.

And as I said above, you need to list down those tasks. It’s not that I don’t trust you to remember your todos, it’s just that it’s much more satisfying, dopamine-wise, to check stuff off a list physically. Nothing is more satisfying than ticking off something as done.

3. Listen To Music

Studies have shown that if you listen to music you really enjoy, the brain releases dopamine as a response. Even the anticipation of hearing that music also increases dopamine levels, which is probably why you see all these crazy lines in front of music stores.

4. Increase Your Tyrosine

Tyrosine is the building block of dopamine, so make sure that you have enough of this protein in you. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to find this. Here are some common foods that have loads of tyrosine:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Eggs
  • Green Tea
  • Milk
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt

I’m pretty sure you have enough of these in your diet, and some of these are foods you actually enjoy.

5. Reduce Your Lipopolysaccharides

Lipolypo, lipopopoly, lipoly-what again? It’s a hard word to pronounce (and write for that matter) but that’s a good thing because you want to avoid it. These are also called endotoxins and yes, it is indeed a toxin. Basically, if you have too much of these, your immune system will go haywire. More importantly, it inhibits the production of dopamine.

The best way to combat this is by having more good bacteria than bad in your gut. How do you do that?

  • Eat lots of probiotic foods, mostly fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi.
  • Get enough sleep so your gut can keep up with you.
  • Don’t overindulge in fatty and sugary foods. The name says that it’s built from lipids and polysaccharides, so less of those means less endotoxins.

6. Exercise Often

I’ve already written a lot about how exercise helps you destress and makes you super-productive. It’s because physical activity is something your body craves (even if your conscious brain hates it sometimes). To make it fun for you, your brain actually releases fun chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine.

The great thing is even non-strenuous exercise can help increase dopamine levels. Try taking the dog out for a walk, climbing some stairs, or busting out the Wii Fit.

7. Establish A Streak

A streak is just a visual reminder of how many consecutive times you achieved something. In games, it’s often used to track wins but you can also use it in everyday activities for the added dopamine boost.

The easiest way to do this is to take a calendar and put an X in the box everyday you do something, like cleaning your desk or eating a healthy lunch. Soon enough, you’ll have a neat row of X’s there to show off as your streak.

Having a streak increases dopamine production in the same way completing a task does. While you haven’t completed the entire goal, just knowing that you’re going in the right direction makes your brain give you enough of a dopamine burst to keep on going.

8. Take Dopamine Enhancing Supplements

While you can’t pump your brain with dopamine, at least not until we have home brain injection kits,  you can take supplements that encourage your brain to produce more dopamine. Here’s some of them:

  • Curcumin, the active ingredient in our favorite curry spice turmeric, helps increase levels of dopamine.
  • Ginkgo Biloba is a popular wonder drug and though it’s not proven, it might help increase dopamine levels by making it stay in your brain longer.
  • L-theanine increases neurotransmitter production in your brain, one of which is dopamine. Green tea has lots of this, though it can also be taken as a theanine supplement.
  • Acetyl-l-tyrosine is a production-ready version of tyrosine which will make it easier for your brain to create dopamine.

9. Make Stuff

Have you noticed that when you’re deep into a creative work, you enter a state of hyper-focus where you feel you can do anything? That state is called flow and it’s something that dopamine helps you achieve.

Increasing dopamine can be as simple as taking up a creative hobby like photography, crafting, auto repair or drawing.

10. Meditate

Sometimes the best way to do something is by doing nothing. Specifically, you do nothing physically but in your mind you’re trying to sort out your thoughts. Whether you meditate, pray or do simple self-reflection, all these activities are linked to increased dopamine levels.

Dopamine is an addictive chemical but in a good way. It’s helps motivate you in doing things you need to do, even if you don’t want to do them. And have you noticed something? Most of the things I mentioned above are actually activities that also make you more productive, since that’s essentially what dopamine does.

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Avatar for Glenn Santos

Author Glenn Santos

Glenn has been writing about technology, productivity and lifehacks for 10 years now. He was previously an editor for Android Authority and Geeky Gadgets, and was one of the first contributors for Startup Weekend's main blog.

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  • COS Rent 4 Events

    Thanks for this Glenn! I only have 3, 6, and 7 in my arsenal – I may have to sample every tip you gave here for boosting my productivity.

  • Carolyn Cordon

    I really hope this article is full of actual true things, because I love doing most of the things here!

  • Ciaran Ryan

    Thanks Glenn, doing most of those things but still struggling. Anything more handcore?

    • What worked for me is to put all my stuff in my calendar. It doesn’t matter: work, play, chores, reminders. Everything goes in there! This means there’s a time and place for everything. And it’s also easier to stay no to people since, well, you have something scheduled already.

      If that doesn’t work, try setting the top 3 things to do each day. A friend uses this and it really adds some enlightenment (and anti procrastination) to his day.

    • Anonymous

      Hardcore? Modafinil.

      • My entire life has revolved around the dopamine levels in my brain. And the two drugs that have zero side affects are eldepryl and provigil (one of which is also known as modafinil). And they each kicked in within 3 to 5 hours and while they supposedly do not wear-off, within 5 to 7 years they each had ZERO impact on me.

        And. I would live to connect with anyone who understands that process. What has also worked was intense wrestling and hard core ground fighting which I can no longer do or working on complicated projects with exceptionally bright and knowledgeable infi individuals. Those being the two mental and physically most challenging activities I could find.

  • Omendata

    Very interesting Glenn my mother has just had a brain tumour removed and has restless legs at night caused by low Dopamine levels at the end of the day – going to give these a go – many thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Try magnesium, particularly Magtein. I have found these have treated my RLS

    • Dragonro

      there is a few things you mom can do. Epsom salt baths help, as well as magnesuim supplements. But also she can get magnesium from eating spinanch and almonds, and other foods rich in it, The restless legs can also be from the cortisone, plus all the other stuff they give you. I had a tumor removed in April and I did all the things I am suggesting. It will take some time to recover and the restless legs should subside.

      • John P

        Myth! Your body does’t absorb nutrients through its skin. Of course it’s nice to sit in a warm bath to help relax

  • Dhina Teja

    the way you emphasized about “dopamine” is very clear. am medical student sometimes i get very confused when i went through different blogs for research work… the way they are explaining ! for in just few minutes i get bored. you made it simple and clear. thanks ! 🙂

  • The Texas Momma

    Enjoyed most of your info but wanted to share this info with you and your followers.. . . .. Dopamine loss is what Parkinson’s Disease is all about. The comments, “you can’t even take dopamine since it’s something your brain produces for itself & While you can’t pump your brain with dopamine” are things they long for. It will be so nice when science can understand the full creation of dopamine and the loss of it… as Parkinson’s could then be cured much quicker


      The issue with Parkinson’s isn’t dopamine but rather the neurons that respond to dopamine

  • Sara Laffin

    Great article, except the part about the line ups in front of music stores…that makes this article appear outdated. In fact, music stores are closing as more people turn to withdrawn on phones just down loading their music. ..

  • Andrea

    Interesting that methamphetamine (ice) use almost completely annihilates dopamine in the brain. This effect can last up to 18 months after a person stops using ice.

  • Ayush

    Helpful. Thank you

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