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 every day. Here are 33 ways to increase dopamine and increase your productivity.
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.
Aside from being the ultimate motivator, having a constant supply of dopamine in your system has a few other fringe benefits:
- Helps you lose weight.
- Makes you feel more alive.
- Improves your memory.
- Stops self-destructive behavior including certain addictions.
- Counteracts depression.
- Lets you resist impulsive behavior.
- Helps you avoid Parkinson’s disease
If you want to be productive and get things done, here are a few ways to boost your dopamine levels.
1. 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:
- Green Tea
2. Increase your Phenylalanine
Phenylalanine is an amino acid, a “building block” of protein. It is used for chronic pain, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and a skin disease called vitiligo. The body uses phenylalanine to make chemical messengers like dopamine. Phenylalanine can be found in most foods that contain protein like:
- Soy products
3. Take Some Caffeine
Most of us have experienced the powerful effect caffeine has on our productivity. On top of getting rid of grogginess, it also increases the release of dopamine, especially in the area of our brain linked to attention and focus. You can get your caffeine fix via:
- Chocolates, preferably dark ones
4. Increase your Pregnenolone
This “happiness” chemical not only boosts dopamine levels, it’s also the building block of our body’s hormones. Another great thing about pregnenolone is that it also helps lift your mood, just like dopamine.
One good thing is that it’s easy to find foods to increase your pregnenolone because it’s built from cholesterol. You can get it from:
Aside from that, your liver also produces some cholesterol on its own which can in turn supply your with pregnenolone.
5. Increase your Resveratrol
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that helps increase dopamine levels in the brain. As an antioxidant, it also assists in fighting cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. You can get this from:
- Dark Chocolate
- Wine, in moderation of course.
6. Increase your DHA
DHA is used for treating dementia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and ADHD. It is also used to prevent and treat depression. It boosts dopamine levels as it supports the brain’s electrical signals and reduce the production of the enzyme that breaks down dopamine. DHA can be found in:
- Lake Trout
7. Increase your Carvacrol
Carvacrol is another chemical that helps produce dopamine when taken in low doses. It also protects your liver, fights bacteria, and acts as an anti-depressant. Carvacrol can be found in:
- Thyme Oils
- Wild Bergamot
8. Increase your Folate
Folate helps the body uild cells and combat heart disease. It also releases serotonin which is involved in the regulation of several processes within the brain including memory, anxiety, depression, aggression, mood, appetite, sleep, emotions and perceptions. You can get this from:
- Dark green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach
- Fruit juices
9. Increase your Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats are fatty acids that are considered heart-healthy as they protect against cardiovascular disease. From one study, it was seen that more monounsaturated fats help improve mood and lead to less anger and irritability. Monounsaturated fats are commonly found in:
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
10. Increase your Butyrate
Butyrate is crucial for gut health. When gut isn’t healthy it can have an impact on mental health, weight, mood and a number of other digestive disorders. Butyrate is good for the brain and nerve cells as it prevented the death of nerve cells responsible for activating movement. It is used also for treating anxiety and depression as it influences the processes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for emotions and emotional memory. Butyrate can be found in:
- Butter (where butyrate gets its name)
- Plant oils
11. Increase your Uridine
Uridine helps restore dopamine balance as it promotes the creation of new dopamine receptors in the brain. It can be used to treat mood disorders and it also improves memory function. Food sources of uridine include:
- Chinese cabbage
12. Avoid Sweeteners
While sugar does give you a dopamine kick, it’s not a healthy one and will make you dependent on it. And avoid aspartame as well. It’s been discovered that it reduces levels of dopamine in your brain as well as dulling serotonin, another feel-good chemical we need.
13. 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 fewer endotoxins.
14. 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.
15. Drink In The Sun
The reason old folks say the outdoors will do you good has some merit. When you’re exposed to sunlight, it both increases your number of dopamine receptors and gives you vitamin D, which in turn activates genes that help release dopamine. In fact, light in general triggers dopamine release in your eyes, which is probably why we like being glued to our screens.
16. Get More Human Contact
Remember that guy who likes hugging a lot? Turns out, he was onto a good idea. Human contact triggers dopamine production not just for you, but for the other person as well. So get your dopamine fix whether you’re caressing your spouse, hugging the kids or even shaking hands with colleagues.
17. Get a Massage
By extension, activities with a lot of touching also boost dopamine, including massages. I probably don’t need to convince you to get a massage though, since you know for a fact that it reduces stress and tension in your muscles. But if you haven’t had one for a while, it’s high time to get one at your local spa.
18. Hug Your Pet
The principle of increasing dopamine through touch also extends to animals, so make it a habit to stroke or hug your pets. They need it as much as you do! But it’s likely this only extends to mammals so it works with dogs, cats, and even bunnies. Don’t expect your pet iguana to like it as much though.
19. Get the Right Amount of Sleep
I’m sure you know that people get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep. One reason is that lack of sleep reduces the number of your dopamine receptors. Less dopamine leads to worse moods.
Of course, the amount of sleep is up for debate but we do suggest trying to practice waking up without an alarm to learn how much sleep you personally need. And yes, invest in a good bed. You spend a third of your life on it.
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.
21. 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.
22. Listen To Music
Studies have shown that if you listen to music you really enjoy, the brain releases dopamine as a response. Good music triggers our pleasure centers, just like when eating good food. That’s another reason to stock up on your favorite hits and save them to your phone, so you can quickly boost your mood by putting on your earbuds.
23. Anticipate Music
But even if you don’t have music in your pocket, anticipating melodies and lyrics actually has the same effect. If you seem to perk up when the intro to your favorite tune plays, that’s because you’re anticipating the chorus to come soon. It’s also probably the reason why we love humming along and even belting out classic songs, whether we like it or not.
24. Make Music
Speaking about singing, performing and creating music also has its own reward. In particular, it’s also a way to get more dopamine into your system. So brush up on your piano lessons and bring down your guitar from the attic to get your dopamine boost.
25. Do Creative Things
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.
26. Start a Detail-Oriented Hobby
Another way to get your dopamine going is by starting a hobby. But not just any hobby, it needs to be one that requires you to focus. It can be anything from assembling LEGO sets to tuning up your car.
27. 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 if you want more dopamine “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.
PS: If you want something to check off when working on your next event, try out our free event planning checklist!
28. 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.
29. Do a Victory Dance
We all love winning, and part of that is because celebrating a win releases a flood of dopamine into our system. Even if you’re not the type to do a jig in the office after sending a successful email, you can still celebrate in other ways.
Share the accomplishments to friends via chat. Write a “Congrats!” note to yourself and stick it to your monitor. Do a small fist pump. All of these actions will help cement the feeling of accomplishment so that you’re sure to get your dopamine rush the next time you achieve something.
30. Take a Cold Shower
If you live somewhere ice-cold, taking a freezing shower isn’t pleasant at all. But it can boost your dopamine levels by as much as 250%. Personally, I’ve switched to cold showers and it does give me an envigorating boost afterwards. Of course, just power through that initial icy feeling and you’ll soon prefer it over your regular shower temperatures.
31. Lose Some Weight
I mentioned above that dopamine helps you lose weight. But the reverse is also true: you losing weight increases your dopamine. That’s because being overweight reduces the number of dopamine receptors that you have.
The good news here is that if you do start trying to lose weight, those receptors come back and as a result help you boost dopamine as well. It’s a virtuous cycle that will help you reach your ideal weight!
32. Exercise Often
I’ve already written a lot about how exercise helps you de-stress 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.
There are other non-strenuous exercises that can help increase dopamine levels. Try taking the dog out for a run, climbing some stairs, or busting out the Wii Fit.
33. Walk It Off
If you can’t squeeze in some intense exercise into your day, you can also just walk around the block. Walking gets your blood flowing and muscles moving, so it does count as exercise, which in turn also triggers creation of dopamine. So even if you abhor walking, try inserting it into your daily routine and pretty soon, you’ll prefer taking the parking slot furthest from your office just to get your steps in.
Dopamine is an addictive chemical but in a good way. It motivates you to do the things you need to do, even the things you don’t like doing.
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.
How do you get your daily dose of dopamine?