Habio Blog

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally and Stay Happy
for a Long Time

Dopamine is involved in how we feel pleasure. It is something that keeps us focused, motivated and willing to strive for new things. Find out about increasing dopamine naturally to keep your pleasure levels high.
No medicine cures what happiness cannot.
Gabriel García Márquez
a girl jumping on the trampoline to show how to increase dopamine
How do you know you're happy? All of us experience happiness differently and we feel happy in varying ways.

But, when you look at what's happening at the molecular level, you might be quite surprised to find that the same chemical compound is present in all of us when we feel that burst of joy.
This chemical compound is dopamine.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine, also known as 3,4-dihydroxytyramine, is a naturally produced chemical present in living creatures. Yes, it's not exclusive to just humans. Dopamine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. In popular culture, dopamine is well-known as a chemical compound that is associated with pleasure. Though this is true, its role is a bit more complex than that.

In the brain, dopamine is responsible for a lot of processes, from governing your working memory to planning and motivation. It also affects other bodily processes outside the brain, such as regulating the pituitary gland, which is so significant that it greatly affects breast milk production in nursing mothers. A prolonged drop in dopamine levels can bring the onset of several neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.

Because of its important role in our lives, the many ways to increase dopamine have been extensively studied by scientists. Increasing dopamine levels can be done both through the aid of supplements or by consuming certain foods. Even engaging in certain activities can increase your dopamine levels!

Before we start talking about how to increase dopamine, let's discuss exactly how dopamine plays a role in your life.

What is the role of dopamine in your life?

a girl drinking tea in a sweater and reading into her laptop how to increase dopamine

It keeps you motivated

Dopamine plays an important role in conditioning-based learning, especially reward-based conditioning. When you are trained to recognize that certain behaviors bring about pleasant feelings for you, you can be sure that dopaminergic systems are operating.

As you start recognizing that when you do certain behaviors, you get more pleasure, your motivation will increase. This is how dopamine affects your motivation. You will be inclined to chase that pleasant feeling, which is governed by the dopaminergic system, over and over again.

Though this can be a good thing, when used unwisely, it can lead to your downfall. In a beneficial situation, the desire to chase dopamine may manifest as always exercising before going to work, as it leaves you with a refreshed and pleasant mood. But in an adverse situation, this same desire for dopamine may come about in the form of drug addiction, because you may derive pleasant feelings from the experience, and thus continue to chase that feeling by regularly increasing the dosage due to habituation.

It increases your learning and memory levels

As we've previously said, dopamine greatly affects reward-based learning. It is especially useful in detecting what behaviors will bring pleasure and which will not. It also affects other types of learning, such as ones that use working memory systems.

Working memory is best described as a short-term memory system that is designed to temporarily hold information. Working memory is affected by increasing dopamine - if you're too happy, you probably won't remember too much of what you're seeing, and if you're too unhappy, you will be too preoccupied with what's causing your unhappiness to focus on the information. A moderate level of dopamine is the most optimal condition to encode new information to the working memory.

It keeps you focused

Research has found that both high and low dopamine levels contribute to cognitive impairment related to attention. When these levels persist for a prolonged time, it can bring about the onset of neurological and mental disorders such as Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia. Patients who suffer from either condition seem to have trouble focusing on tasks, and as their illness grows more severe, so does their performance on tasks that require a high level of concentration.

Though experimental research has yet to be done in people with baseline conditions, it can be assumed that dopamine levels contribute to your ability to focus on tasks, just like how it affects your memory.
a woman on her bed smiling and showing how to increase dopamine

6 ways on how to increase dopamine naturally

1. Sleep well

What does your sleep quality have to do with dopamine? Although research has found that the amount of dopamine released by brain cells stays the same even when you're sleep-deprived, it doesn't mean that the dopamine is processed. The number of receptors that are responsible for transmitting these "happy feelings" is decreased, and thus you cannot derive the full benefits of dopamine. So, if you're thinking of sleeping later in favor of binge-watching a new TV series, refrain from doing so, because science proves it — the experience won't make you any happier.

2. Exercise daily

If you're wondering how to increase dopamine fast, start exercising. Exercising regularly has been found to increase dopamine production and receptors. Just jogging or walking every day for 30 minutes would be enough to increase your dopamine levels. It also helps your other brain systems - not just your dopaminergic ones.

3. Eat a healthy diet rich in protein and low in sugar

Since this is a list concerning how to naturally increase dopamine, it would be negligent if we don't mention a way to do that via what you consume. There are various foods that you can eat to increase dopamine, such as cantaloupe, mango, and cashew nuts. However, remember to eat them wisely and don't focus too much on increasing dopamine since the optimal level for you may not be the highest.

4. Consider vitamins and supplements

There are ways to increase dopamine with the help of vitamins and supplements. Some supplements that are known to increase dopamine include probiotics, ginkgo biloba, curcumin, and magnesium. You should know, however, that not all of these supplements' efficacy has been tested in laboratory settings on humans. If you are interested in trying some of these supplements, be sure to consult your doctor beforehand.
a man cooking fish for dinner to show how to increase dopamine

5. Get enough sunlight

The relationship between dopamine and sunlight is quite complex. Although previous research has found that sunlight exposure helps improve the mood of individuals who suffer from mental disorders such as seasonal affective disorder, the mechanism behind how it happens is still poorly understood.

However, research in 2013 found that energy and motivation were independent of light. Thus, if you're unhappy while sunbathing, for example, you may not be able to receive the full advantages that you're supposed to get through being under the sun.

6. Try meditation

Is it possible for meditation to increase dopamine? The answer is yes. Research done in 2002 found increased dopamine release after a meditation session in people who have practiced meditation for at least two years. Similar findings were also found in research done in South Korea in 2010 and research done in the United States in 2013, despite the difference in meditation styles. So, why not get started on meditation today to reap its benefits, including increasing dopamine levels?
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