Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain meaning that it is important for the signals that are sent between the synapses – the gaps between our different brain cells. Thus it has many profound effects on the brain, many of which we would consider very beneficial and positive. Here we will look at precisely what dopamine does and how you can get more of it through your diet and lifestyle.
Mood and Drive
The primary role of dopamine in the brain is to be used as a 'reward' system to reward the brain for positive behaviours. This includes things such as eating a good meal, or doing a workout, and after this the brain releases a large amount of dopamine in order to encourage that behaviour more in future. This makes it a great mood booster and also crucial for motivation and drive. Dopamine therefore can be used as an anti-depressant and without it we might also find ourselves without the drive and motivation to succeed.
Dopamine is also crucial for our motor movements and if we had a complete lack of dopamine in our brain it would result in a complete paralysis. Too much dopamine however and you would be likely to alternatively find that you had a lot of jerky and uncontrollable movements. As such then, an excess of dopamine is also not desirable. The correct amount of dopamine will result in quick reflexes and good coordination.
Dopamine is also conducive to a range of other cognitive skills such as arithmetic and memory and many studies have demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of dopamine will perform better in recall and reasoning tasks. It also helps with alertness, concentration and focus – and it is the fact that caffeine leads to a spike in dopamine that means many of us use coffee or tea while working. This means that it is often used as a 'nootropic' or a brain-enhancing drug.
In short then, getting more dopamine will mean that you have a higher motivation and drive and will mean that you get more joy out of life and your achievements. At the same time you will also have better movement and cognitive skills, and will also be more alert. In general then it is the chemical that is the secret to success and is so highly sought after.
Ways to Increase Dopamine
Fortunately there are lots of ways that you can increase your production of dopamine. Some of these are natural while others involve using products. The best approach if you want to increase your dopamine is to use those that you are happy with in combination to maximise their effect. Here we'll look at a few different methods and foods to increase dopamine….
Take supplements: One way to increase your dopamine is to of course take dopamine supplements which are designed to increase the body's natural production of dopamine. These mostly work quite effectively, but they are expensive and some people won't feel comfortable with taking supplements for fear of becoming dependent/incurring side effects.
Workout: Working out produces dopamine among a range of feel good hormones. When you finish working out your body flushes you with a plethora of 'feel good' chemicals, but it will also mean that you have a higher 'base level' of dopamine to ensure you feel happier and have more drive – which will also help you in that next work out.
Bananas: Bananas are a great source of dopamine and in particular riper bananas. When you eat a very ripe banana you will notice brown spots down the sides – these represent the sites where there are particularly high concentrations of dopamine. If you don't like ripe bananas then try mashing them up with milk and sugar for a very tasty and healthy snack.
Eat sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds are additionally very effective at naturally increasing dopamine.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants are also great for increasing the amount of dopamine in our systems by destroying free radicals which can otherwise cancel out dopamine.
Caffeine: Caffeine is great for dopamine and triggers its release. However it is only great in the short term – in the long term it will result in a trough. If you need a quick boost of motivation and concentration then, having a cup of coffee or tea is hard to beat – as most of us are aware anyway.