What is dopamine and why do we care. Dopamine is a hormone-ish/neurotransmitter. There is a lot of science that can go into this discussion, but I am only going to speak to a few aspects and put it as non-sciency as possible.
Why Do We Care About Dopamine?
Dopamine makes you get out of bed in the morning. It increases just when you realize that you get to make a cup of coffee, even more when you smell the coffee, and a whole lot when you drink the coffee. Here is the problem: you get used to the coffee, so the reward for the stimuli decreases over time and you need the same amount of coffee for half the amount of the reward. It is not the same with all dopamine increasing measures. As we will get to later, mixing it up is key.
Reward. Dopamine is very rewarding. Pleasure, learning, and approach behavior are the three main functions of reward. Pleasure can be the definition of reward, but not the other way around. Sometimes we are rewarded, yet don’t get pleasure from it. A paycheck is a reward for working, however when you see how much is taken out the pleasure you may have gained is lost. If it is short, then you can have panic, anger, and confusion. All dopamine killers.
Eating food is a very pleasurable experience for some people, I think especially us IF’ers. If we do it right and end our fasting window with a tasty healthy meal that we eat mindfully. I like to sit or sometimes I just stand at my prep table and eat… that way I don’t have the distraction of the TV or Cleo head butting me. I like to take a nice fork full of salad and put it in my mouth. I love to try to discern the different flavors as I chew slowly. When we blindly just shove shit in our mouths to fill our crying belly this is lost. (I’m guilty of this at times.)
Sex. As far as dopamine is concerned, it will increase with wanting sex before actually having sex. Sex is a case in point. Dopamine goes bat shit crazy with the anticipation of sex. The levels will be higher during anticipatory sexual congress, level out during sex, and rapidly decrease post coitus, where it is overtaken quickly by endorphins. And who doesn’t like a good dose of endorphins.
Dopamine can be scary too. Those with mental health issues or drug or alcohol problems dopamine can be reached using or over using these substances. I am going to make up numbers now just for quasi-perspective purposes. Don’t ask me for my references, I am the reference damnit!.. lol… Say you wake up in the morning at a dopamine of 30, you think of your morning coffee and it bumps up to a 35, and you drink you coffee and you go up to a 50, get to work and your boss is a dick, down to a 35 again, accomplish an important task and it shoots up to a 70.
Now the first time an individual takes methamphetamine think a dopamine of 1300. Can you imagine having that amount of pleasure and not wanting to experience it again. Keep in mind that they also have delusions, hallucinations, and other issues that we may consider unpleasant, However most persons who try methamphetamine try it again.
Don’t confuse dopamine with serotonin. Serotonin is the happiness neurotransmitter, we will talk about that sometime. Dopamine can be grossly increased by things that can become addictive.
Natural Ways to Increase–Or At Least Balance–Dopamine
I purposely left out the supplements because they do not fit in the natural category as far as I am concerned. If you wish to explore that, have at it.
- Tyrosine: almonds, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, coffee(careful), green tea, and watermelon
- Phenylalanine: Nuts, seeds, soy products
- Resveratrol: blueberries, cranberries, grapes, peanuts, pistachios, wine (moderate only)
- DHA: Seaweed
- Carvacrol: oregano, pepperwort, thyme, wild bergamot
- Folate: Dark green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach, fruits, nuts
- Monounsaturated fats: avocados, nuts, flax, hemp seeds, chia
- Butyrate: pre-biotics
- Uridine: beer (yay!!!!!!), broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, oats, parsley
- Reduce your lipopolysaccharides: Huh?? Simply put, take care of your gut health. Sleep, eat fermented foods, eat prebiotics, don’t eat a lot of fatty or sugary foods.
- Vitamin D
- Human contact: hugging, kissing, holding hands, long walks on the beach… oh shit sounds like I am building a dating profile
- Get a massage
- Companion animals
- Sleep: 6 to 9 hours daily. Not more, not less
- Discover something new and that excites you
- Music: Especially those of certain HrZt. 432, 528
- To do list: checking off a project is a great dopamine booster. This works even better when you’ve paid off a bill.
- Exercise: at least 90 minutes of walking at a good clip.