How To Get Dopamine Naturally Right Now, According To Science
You have to know how to get dopamine naturally.
Knowing your natural sources of dopamine is key to managing energy levels and motivation and to stopping or preventing addictions.
Years ago I quit every addiction (coffee, smoking, drinking…). I started only getting dopamine from healthy sources. And it completely changed my life.
Natural sources of dopamine are essential for productivity and motivation
Taking advantage of natural sources of dopamine is one of the best ways to improve productivity.
You’re sitting there staring at the computer. Your exams, or perhaps your work deadline, is coming up. You tell yourself to work. But instead you waste time on Facebook or you head out for a drink or for a smoke, or you binge watch Netflix.
That’s how I used to live. And it’s how billions of other people live.
You know how to get a dopamine hit the unnatural way. And people constantly do. They know they’re doing the wrong thing. They just can’t help it.
“Why am I so unmotivated?” they ask themselves, screaming at themselves because they know they have to do something to turn their life around. But they always feel unmotivated. They’re always unproductive.
It’s because unnatural dopamine sources kills motivation.
If you have a dopamine problem, it is time, right now, for you to step up and find motivation the right way.
Natural sources of dopamine are essential for balancing brain chemicals
Most times, when people are unproductive and unmotivated it’s because of a chemical imbalance.
The most important brain chemicals for productivity and motivation are:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that transmits signals between nerve cells (1).
Dopamine motivates you to take an action.
When you perform a positive action your brain is doing it in anticipation of the dopamine that will be released as a result. It’s the carrot in front of the horse’s face.
We get dopamine from the food we eat. We ingest tyrosine, an amino acid, that becomes dopa, and that dopa then becomes dopamine. That dopamine is then passed through the brain via dopamine machinery. If that dopamine machinery is impaired, a variety of complications can arise, including: Parkinson’s, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.
Thing is, when you get dopamine hits from sources that are unnatural, you totally kill your motivation.
What this all means is that we need the right amount of dopamine in the right place at the right time.
Other brain chemicals that work alongside dopamine are:
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can have a huge effect on mood and emotion.
Serotonin flows when you feel high self regard.
People who are lonely and depressed have low serotonin levels (2).
Serotonin is released when you reflect on past accomplishments—your brain perceives little difference between reality and imagined reality, so when you imagine reliving past glory you release serotonin. Healthy exposure to the sun also releases serotonin.
Oxytocin creates trust and intimacy. It’s the cuddle hormone. So if you hug people a lot it’s because your brain wants to keep a steady flow of oxytocin.
Oxytocin also improves cardiovascular health and improves your immune system.
Endorphins are released to alleviate stress and anxiety. Exercise is the best natural way to produce endorphins. Laughter is another way. And aromatherapy helps also, especially lavender.
You can read more about these chemicals on Thai Nguyen’s blog TheUtopianLife.
These brain chemicals are the big deal behind motivation and productivity.
For motivation, learn how to get natural dopamine
Managing your dopamine will give you motivation to:
- Get fit
- Lose weight
- Get the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend
- Succeed in your career
- Achieve that lofty ambition
- Get that bucket-list item done
I personally struggled for years to find the motivation to lose weight. I always wanted to be healthy, to look good, and to have toned muscles. But I lacked motivation.
Then I did a ton of research into dopamine. And it turned out I was totally addicted to getting a dopamine hit from unnatural sources.
Turns out, your brain is only really motivated by a select few things. And most of them are some form of neurochemical.
Dopamine is the neurochemical for desire (5).
Dopamine is a pleasure chemical that is responsible for motivation.
Here’s how dopamine works:
- Your brain anticipates dopamine in association to a specific thing or activity (for instance, exercise)
- This anticipation makes you want to exercise
- You exercise
- Your brain releases dopamine
- You feel good
- Your brain associates exercise with feeling good
- You want to exercise again
- You soon get fit
Dopamine motivates everything you do.
Were mankind 100% natural and not entirely self-destructive, this dopamine situation would be an entirely positive thing. Dopamine would motivate you to eat fruit and other healthy food, exercise, work hard, and do other positive things, because those positive things release dopamine.
Problems arise when you get dopamine from the wrong places.
To prove this, go get yourself a horse.
Well, don’t really, but take it from a horse lover, if you put a carrot on a stick in front of a horse the horse will keep walking until it gobbles up the carrot. That’s a good thing, because the horse will get exercise while it’s moving.
But what if you put that carrot in the wrong place?
Place the carrot above the horse’s neck and it will constantly arch its neck backwards until it gets a stiff neck. Put the carrot in the wrong place and the horse will still try to get it even though it’s harming itself.
Your brain is that horse.
If you’re not productive and not motivated it’s because your carrot is in the wrong place. By which I mean that your dopamine is being released via the wrong channels.
How Unhealthy Dopamine Sources Make You Unproductive
Dopamine is the way your brain motivates itself to do something.
Your brain, left to its own natural course, will release dopamine from positive activities like completing a task and going on a winning streak.
Here are some ways your brain gets a dopamine hit naturally:
- Completing tasks
- Achieving things
- Going on a winning streak
- Making love
Left to its own natural state your brain will release dopamine to motivate you to take positive actions to get that reward.
But some clever scientist in a lab realised this. They learned how to get a dopamine hit from unnatural sources. And they abused it.
Companies realised they could make mind control a reality by making people get dopamine from their products.
A fat cat business owner then said to the scientist, “Can you make it so people get dopamine from our products so people will get addicted to them?”
An exchange was made whereby the scientist made a packet of money, the businessman got you addicted to their products, and people became slaves because someone was controlling their brains’ motivator.
Flash forward several years to the present day.
People’s brains have now learned to get dopamine hits from sources that are unnatural—the one thing it is motivated to get—by eating sugar, smoking cigarettes, watching movies, and so on. Their brains are now manipulated into getting dopamine through negative actions.
We can think of these things as bad mental hygiene because they are impurities both of body and mind..
Because their brains are motivated to get those unhealthily high dopamine levels from unhealthy products, they are no longer motivated to do the right things that would have released enough dopamine to satisfy it had it not been for those corrupt businessmen who brainwashed them.
Bad news: Unhealthy sources of dopamine tend to give the brain more dopamine than the healthy sources of dopamnine.
Take exercise for instance:
Exercise only releases X amount of dopamine. So you do get a hit of dopamine from exercise. But a small hit.
Having a cigarette, watching a movie (especially an adult movie), eating junk food… those activities release more dopamine than exercise does.
And of course, exercise takes much more effort than those activities.
So now your brain says, “Well, I could exercise and feel quite good. Or I could just sit here watching TV and drinking coke and feel amazing.”
What do you think your brain is going to choose?
It’s like me asking you, “Would you like to earn $100 for working your butt off, or $1000 for doing nothing?” Erm, I’ll do nothing, thanks for the free money.
The reality of the situation:
- People are highly motivated and highly productive
- They are motivated to get dopamine from unhealthy sources
- They successfully get dopamine from those sources (they smoke, have far too much sugar etc)
- Because they get dopamine from unhealthy sources, they don’t get them from natural, positive sources (they don’t exercise or work to get dopamine)
- These people are motivated and productive. Just in totally the wrong way.
Many people suffer from addictions because they’ve learnt to get dopamine hits either in the wrong quantities or from the wrong sources
You will not be surprised when I say that many of the world’s largest manufacturers have succeeded precisely because they have deliberately impaired your dopamine control.
For starters, all foods that contain lots of sugar lead to a dopamine hit. Are you addicted to Coke (as in “Cola”)? That’s because of the amount of sugar it contains. The sugar gives your brain a dopamine hit. Your brain says, “Wow I must have done something right here because I’m drowning in dopamine now”. You’ve trained your brain that Coke = dopamine. You’re addicted.
Smoking cigarettes? Same deal. Nicotine gives you the largest dopamine release on Earth (except for sex). You get that dopamine hit one time you’re addicted.
Those adult videos you watch when no one’s home? Yeah. Same deal. Especially if you indulge in them.
Thankfully, there are some powerful ways that you can overcome these addictions.
The two ways to manage dopamine sources so you’re more motivated:
- Increase dopamine naturally (get it from natural sources).
- Lower or replace dopamine hits from unnatural sources.
This is the best way to stop being lazy. And it will double motivation and productivity.
The problem with replacing dopamine hits from unnatural sources…
If you’re gotten used to hits from unhealthy sources of dopamine, changing them can be a challenge.
When you use drugs or sugar to get a huge dopamine hit, your brain then wants more dopamine, and it’s not happy with the amount it gets doing healthy activities.
If you’ve been smoking, eating too much, watching adult videos, or taking in other huge hits of dopamine, your brain has learnt to take more dopamine than it naturally should.
This means that your brain is now not satisfied with the normal levels of dopamine. It wants the big hits. It wants the sugar, the cigarettes, etc.
So now you’ve got a brain that only feels satisfied if it’s given unhealthy levels of dopamine from unhealthy sources.
Problem. Because now you’re left two choices:
- Continue to get dopamine hits from unnatural sources, which will make you happy for a bit but ultimately kill you.
- Replace dopamine sources so they are more natural. This will be a very healthy choice, but you’ll feel like crap for a while.
Obviously the right choice here is choice two: do not do the unhealthy thing, let the brain return to its healthy state, and deal with the anxiety and depression while your brain returns to a healthy state.
Problem is it’s not that easy. Because your previous dopamine addiction has hijacked your brain.
Your brain wants very high levels of dopamine.
It’s learnt to get that dopamine from unhealthy actions.
If it doesn’t get those high levels of dopamine you will experience symptoms of dopamine withdrawal.
Most people notice a massive difference in self esteem when they try to change their dopamine habits.
When you lose self esteem you’ll start to think “Do I deserve to be happy / healthy anyway?” (if this is true for you, by the way, please use these 10 exercises for self esteem. They will combat the problem).
And when you think you don’t deserve happiness and health, well, then sod it, where are my cigarettes?
And so because of all this, it is very hard to get motivated and healthy.
How To Get Dopamine Naturally To Boost Productivity And Motivation
If you have good control of your dopamine levels you will know it. You’ll have high levels of motivation, you’ll feel energy coursing through your body, you’ll have a healthy libido, and you’ll have high levels of confidence.
Those are the benefits of managing your dopamine levels.
If you do not have properly managed dopamine levels you will probably know it too, for other reasons.
Problems from unhealthy sources of dopamine:
- Low libido
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Lack of motivation
- memory loss
How To Replace Dopamine Naturally
Truth is, while you return your brain to natural dopamine control, you will feel less than perfect. However, you can make things easier for yourself by giving yourself high levels of dopamine from performing healthy actions.
While your brain returns to natural dopamine levels, bolster it with positive, natural, healthy activities.
- You can quit smoking
- give up sugar
- get through your diet
- stop watching adult films (be a “nofap”)
- and stop all those other unhealthy actions by replacing them with healthy actions. You’re killing the “bad dopamine” and replacing it with “good dopamine”.
How To Get Dopamine From Healthy Sources
In a moment I will share with you the best natural ways to get dopamine.
But first a warning.
You’re going to think “These activities won’t help me and won’t give me what I want.”
Why would you think that?
Remember, dopamine is what your brain wants. But your brain has learnt to get dopamine from the wrong places. So when I tell you “Go and exercise.” Your brain will say “Exercise doesn’t give me what I want. Smoking does”.
You see my point?
Because your brain has learnt the wrong thing you will think the right think is bullshit.
Which is fine.
So long as you understand that your current perception of the “right thing” is warped, you can counterattack your intuitive response.
Here’s my strategy:
- Let yourself say “That’s bullshit.”
- Then say, “That seems like bullshit because I have learnt to think the wrong way.”
- Then say, “I’m learning to do this the right way now, so I have to just put my thoughts behind me for a second”.
- Then go and do the right thing even though you will not feel like doing it.
This attitude will help you to get through the challenges of managing your dopamine levels.
The best ways to get dopamine naturally
One of the best ways to get dopamine naturally is through your diet.
1. Natural food sources of dopamine:
- Animal products
- Fruits (apples, bananas, avocados, watermelon)
- Vegetables (beets, fava beans, leafy greens, lima beans, sea vegetables)
- Nuts (almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Green tea
- Foods containing probiotics
There are many natural health supplements that provide dopamine. The best supplements are Curcumin (found in turmeric), Gingko Biloba, L-theanine (contained in green tea), and Acetyl-l-tyrosine
The highest rated dopamine supplement on Amazon is Brain Food:
2: Exercise for a Hit of Dopamine
You already know that exercise is the best thing you can do to improve your brain functioning.
Exercise is also one of the best natural ways to get dopamine.
The effects of exercise on the brain have been studied by Dr. John Ratey, psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
Dr. Ratey’s research shows that exercise promotes the grown of new brain receptors, thereby raising baseline levels of dopamine.
Have you ever been out running when you’ve felt “Runner’s High”? That’s because you had a dopamine release caused by the physical exercise.
Importantly, you don’t need to do extraneous exercise to get a dopamine release. Even more gentle exercises like tai chi, yoga, and qi gong will provide a release of dopamine.
Why not take a look at my guide to the 13 types of yoga. It’s great for both calming the mind (so you’re less effected by cravings) while also providing healthy dopamine.
3: Meditation for Dopamine
My personal favorite way to get dopamine is through meditation
Meditation is known to produce more than 100 health benefits.
Recent scientific research has also shown that meditation improves dopamine levels (6). Meditation also helps eliminate cravings. This makes it one of the best things you can do to overcome addictions.
4: Creative source of dopamine
Creative hobbies also improve dopamine levels (7).
Activities such as painting, drawing, dancing, photography, and woodworking all help to put your mind into a meditative state, which in turn improves dopamine levels.
5: Music as a source of dopamine
Somewhat surprisingly, music is also a great way to improve dopamine levels (7).
Dopamine levels improve during moments of anticipation (which is the main reason why anticipation is often better than the real thing).
When you listen to your favorite song, your brain is anticipating the parts your particularly like (such as the chorus). This releases dopamine.
6: Learn new things
Learning something new increases dopamine production (8).
This is mostly due to ancestry. Your ancestors needed to learn things like how to make a wheel in order to survive. Nature motivated them to do so by providing them with dopamine. Now, whenever you learn something new you get a release of dopamine and you can feel your connection to your ancestors too.
Try reading a random Wiki or watching an instructional video.
7: Finish jobs
One of the best ways to get dopamine naturally is to finish tasks (9).
Every time you finish a task you get a release of dopamine, a natural incentive for finishing what you start.
If you want more dopamine (and also more motivation) break a big task into a series of smaller tasks. You’ll get a dopamine hit every time you finish one of those smaller tasks. This is also why it’s often hard and intimidating to take on longer tasks, because your brain will be saying “This will take forever. When’s my next hit of dopamine?”
8: Go on a streak
Your brain really likes going on streaks.
Maybe that’s why sports are so obsessed with win streaks. Every time you add another success to a win streak you get a hit of dopamine (10).
To get a win streak going, start one habit today, for instance meditate. Put an X down in a calendar saying you successfully meditated. Do it every day. Before long you’ll have a streak, which will provide you with dopamine, and that dopamine will motivate you to keep going.
Note that this is also a good way to break a habit.
Every time you don’t do your habit (for instance, you have a cigarette but don’t have one) mark it down. Before long you’ll get a streak. That streak will give you dopamine (making you less inclined to need the dopamine you would get from smoking) and it will also motivate you to keep going.
Managing Your Dopamine Will Create A Surge In Motivation And Productivity
With the above strategies you can start to manage your dopamine and to get dopamine from healthier sources.
Science proves that when you manage your dopamine you will substantially increase productivity and motivation.
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Paul Martin Harrison
Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book Journey To The Buddha Within You.