What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that is important for motivation, movement, memory, mood, sleep, and regulating behavior. The brain relies on dopamine for its reward system, in which the person is given dopamine after doing something beneficial and therefore wants to do it again.
What Releases Dopamine in Our Brains?
Whenever one does something one enjoys, such as eating good food, having sex, or running, a small amount of dopamine is released into the brain. Alcohol and recreational drugs can cause the release of dopamine as well, however, and dopamine has had a close connection to addiction.
What Does it Mean When Dopamine Levels are Low?
Medical conditions such as depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease have been connected to low levels of dopamine. Having low dopamine levels can lead to a lack of motivation, apathy, listlessness, and concentration issues.
Signs of Low Dopamine:
Low dopamine levels can include the following symptoms:
● Low libido
● Muscle stiffness
● Lack of motivation
Causes of Low Dopamine:
Possible causes of low dopamine levels can include:
● Medical conditions such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s diseases, depression, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder
● A poor diet that lacks enough nutrients for the brain, particularly tyrosine
● Substance abuse, which reduces the body’s natural dopamine production
● Certain medication such as antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs that bind to dopamine receptors
How to Increase Dopamine Naturally?
Fortunately, there are different ways to increase dopamine naturally, aside from supplements or medication.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests at least seven hours of sleep on average for adults. Not sleeping enough can negatively affect dopamine receptors in the body, and research has shown a connection between sleep deprivation and dopamine receptor suppression.
Listening to Music
When you feel the symptoms that indicate your dopamine levels are low, you can listen to a playlist of songs you like. It was revealed in a study from 2011 that listening to pleasurable music can help increase dopamine levels in the brain.
Keeping a Healthy Diet
The body naturally produces tyrosine, an amino acid that dopamine is made from. Tyrosine can be found in foods rich in protein. Tyrosine-rich foods also include almonds, eggs, fish, and chicken. Foods with natural probiotics like yogurt and kefir can also help raise dopamine production. Coffee and similar drinks, such as energy drinks, can increase dopamine as well, but since dopamine levels drop after these types of drinks have been consumed, it could lead to a caffeine addiction.
Exercise causes your brain to release some dopamine. Although more research is needed to understand how the brain produces dopamine during exercise, this may explain how one feels after working out. A runner’s high can be felt by avid runners and is a state of relaxation and elation caused by the brain’s dopamine release.
According to research, meditation can help with many mental health conditions, as well as increase dopamine.
Less Processed Sugars
Although processed sugars can increase dopamine, it is artificial and doesn’t last. Similarly to alcohol and recreational drugs, sugar can give you short-term increases of dopamine while changing your body’s natural rate of production of dopamine. The sudden elation one feels after consuming a lot of sugar in a brief period is a sugar high. It usually does not last long and comes before a crash that makes you feel low.
Although one is not always able to control sources of stress in life, you can try to take away sources of stress that are within your control. You can also meditate, exercise, get a massage, or do other activities that lower stress.
Final Notes About Having Low Dopamine Levels
As a final note, you should see a doctor if symptoms show your condition may be more serious than low dopamine levels. If an underlying medical condition is causing you to have low dopamine levels, treating it will help with symptoms as well your health and happiness.