May 31, 2022

Dopamine: What It Is & How to Increase It

Close up of a man smiling outdoors while the sun shines on him

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter — a chemical that transmits messages — produced in the brain and other parts of the body. Sometimes referred to as the “feel-good neurotransmitter,” it plays an important role in the pleasure/reward system that motivates people to repeat certain behaviors. It’s also involved in memory, attention, and controlling physical movement. 

Consequently, dopamine is essential for overall mental and physical wellbeing. Typically, the body does a good job of regulating its dopamine level. However, there are actions you can take to boost your dopamine levels. 

9 Tips for Increasing Your Dopamine Levels

If you want to increase your dopamine levels naturally, use these nine tips:

  1. Exercise regularly. Physical activity is known to improve mood. While that improvement isn’t entirely due to dopamine, animal studies suggest that exercise can increase dopamine levels in the brain, and some human studies have found similar results. Plus, as everyone knows, regular exercise provides many other benefits.
  2. Eat protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, one of which is called tyrosine. It’s vital in the production of dopamine. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein from foods like turkey, eggs, beef, legumes, soy, and low-fat dairy helps ensure that your body has what it needs to maintain the proper dopamine levels. 
  3. Reduce saturated fat consumption. It’s believed that high levels of saturated fat in the body from foods like full-fat dairy, butter, animal fat, palm oil, and coconut oil can disrupt dopamine signaling. 
  4. Pay attention to “gut health.” Researchers continue to learn more about the digestive system and its role in producing neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Some studies suggest that consuming probiotics helps improve or restore gut health.
  5. Get enough sleep. Studies have found that lack of sleep can disrupt the normal cycle of higher dopamine release in the morning and tapering dopamine release in the evening, which supports normal wakefulness and sleepiness.
  6. Meditate. Meditation is associated with better mental and physical health, which may be due to it increasing dopamine production. You can meditate while sitting, standing, or even walking. 
  7. Get an appropriate amount of sunlight. Evidence suggests that sun exposure can increase the density of dopamine receptors in certain areas of the brain. However, it’s important to follow safety guidelines about sun exposure since it’s associated with an increased risk of conditions like skin cancer.
  8. Listen to music you enjoy. Music has been found to increase activity in areas of the brain associated with the reward and pleasure systems. In particular, if a piece of music creates an emotional response like giving you chills, it may increase your dopamine levels. 
  9. Talk with your doctor about supplements. Your body needs adequate amounts of several vitamins to create dopamine — iron, vitamin B6, niacin, and others. If blood work shows that you’re deficient in necessary vitamins, your doctor may advise you to take supplements to elevate your levels. 

Maintain Proper Dopamine Levels for Motivation, Memory, and More

Dopamine plays a critical role in mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Follow the tips above to help maintain proper dopamine levels. 

If you have questions or concerns about any aspect of your health, your Baptist Health physician is here to help. Use our online directory to find a provider if you don’t have one.

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