The link between dopamine and happiness
Doesn’t it feel good when you’ve completed a big project, learned something new, or achieved a set goal?
That sense of accomplishment and fulfillment is a reward that’s attributed to our state of happiness.
Quite often, that’s due to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is one of four neurotransmitters known as happiness chemicals. Along with serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, it sends messages throughout the body to the brain, particularly when it comes to feeling happy.
This particular neurotransmitter is associated with reward. It boosts mood and contributes to the excitement of anticipating events (such as looking forward to a date, time with the family, or a vacation).
Think about the things you love to do, the food you crave, and the information you like to learn. The motivation to enjoy these things is pleasure-seeking and dopamine boosts this feeling.
On the contrary, low levels of dopamine have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and addiction (such as gambling, drugs, and shopping). It’s even a main ingredient in medications that support people with ADHD because it can help with focus and attention. Increasing levels of dopamine naturally may help ward off future disease.
To increase dopamine levels in your body:
1. Consume food with tyrosine
Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as a building block for dopamine. Foods such as seeds, meat, dairy, soy, and beans contain tyrosine and can help boost amounts of the neurotransmitter.
Supplements such as L-tyrosine and L-theanine provide can additional support.
2. Pat yourself on the back
Did you cook a great homemade dinner? Have you reached your goal of running a 5k? Did you receive a compliment on your hard work?
If so, celebrate – get a massage, spend a night watching a favorite movie, or break out the bubbly for a toast and experience higher levels of dopamine as you reward yourself for a job well done.
3. Avoid certain foods
Processed foods, as well as those with high sugar and caffeine content, can deplete dopamine.
Reduce or eliminate these as much as possible.
4. Get good sleep
Dopamine is an important part of the sleep-wake cycle and is associated with feelings of alertness.
Lack of proper sleep may decrease dopamine receptors and can result in fatigue and an overall sense of feeling tired. Practice healthy sleep habits to support your happiness.
5. Take care of yourself
Self-care is an easy and effective way to raise levels of dopamine.
Consider what works for you – a warm bath at night? Some quiet time to read and reflect? A hike on your favorite trail?
Among innumerable others, these are all options that can help you manage stress and increase dopamine levels.
An increase in happiness may be more available that you ever imagined. With good eating habits, proper sleep, and the implementation of healthy stress-management tools, you can start increasing your chances of feeling good – starting today.