Dopamine plays a huge role in how we feel pleasure. Seeking pleasurable experiences is normal. So it is important that you know about activities that release dopamine to help you lead a full and fulfilling life.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger). Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells.
It is required for our uniquely human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.
Dopamine is made in the brain through a two-step process. First, it changes the amino acid tyrosine into a substance called dopa, and then into dopamine.
Your body spreads dopamine along four major pathways in the brain. Like most other systems in the body, you do not notice it (or perhaps even know about it) until there is a problem.
Too much or too little of it can lead to a vast range of health issues. Some are serious, like Parkinson’s disease. Others are much less dire.
Dopamine affects many parts of your behavior and physical functions, such as:
- Heart rate
- Blood vessel function
- Kidney function
- Control of nausea and vomiting
- Pain processing
You can see from this list that dopamine is important for more than just pleasure – although pleasure is definitely important. It impacts the quality of your life in many different ways.
How do you get more dopamine naturally? These 5 fun activities that release dopamine is a great place to start:
EatingThis pleasurable activity can release dopamine – if you are eating the right things. These foods and beverages are known to contain l-tyrosine or increase dopamine by other mechanisms:
- High-quality animal products.
Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs contain the complete set of amino acids which your body cannot produce on its own. And when you eat these animal products, they can trigger your body to release dopamine.
And dairy is high in phenylalanine which your body can convert into tyrosine which is necessary for producing dopamine.
- Fava beans, also called broad beans, are one of the plant foods that contain L-dopa which is a direct precursor to dopamine.
- Apples, bananas and berries contain quercetin and tyrosine which both stimulate dopamine production.
- Foods high in probiotics.
Yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut are high in probiotics and may increase natural dopamine production.
Interestingly, 50% of your dopamine is found in your intestines where it is synthesized by gut microbes.
The health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of dopamine.
An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which can destroy cells that make dopamine.
Probiotics help to keep your intestinal flora healthy.
Coffee and tea both contain caffeine. Caffeine makes you feel more awake and alert, in part, by stimulating the release of dopamine and increasing the availability of dopamine receptors.
L-theanine is an amino acid found uniquely in teas of all kinds including black, white, oolong, and green tea. It is also available as a supplement.
- Dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains tyrosine and phenylalanine which the body can convert into dopamine. However, a little dark chocolate can go a long way. So, eat it in moderation.
- High-quality animal products.
Listen to your favorite musicWhen you listen to music you enjoy, your body responds by releasing dopamine. And when you dance to the music, you might just get an extra helping of dopamine because moving your body is also a great activity that releases dopamine.
Participate in your favorite physical activitiesInterestingly, when you get your body moving it releases dopamine. That is why we regularly recommend bouncing as a way to get into motion. It is something you can easily do whenever you need to shift your attitude.
Meditate or practice autogenic trainingYou may not find meditation fun. However, we do. We enjoy the peace of mind and release of stress we experience when we use autogenic training or Biogenics®. And research shows that these activities do indeed release dopamine.
Spend time in the sunshineSpending time in the sun boosts dopamine – in addition to allowing your body to manufacture vitamin D3 from cholesterol.
If you avoid spending time outdoors in the sun because of skin health concerns, you need to know about the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin. I, Dr. Shealy, have used it for years and despite spending several hours every week gardening, I have never burned. Nor have I had skin cancer.
These 5 fun activities will help your body release dopamine. And the best part is that each one of them is quite simple to do.
When you participate in any of these activities regularly, you will notice that your mood remains elevated and that you feel better overall with a healthy level of dopamine.
Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. is the father of holistic medicine. Dr. Sergey Sorin is a holistic physician as well as the CEO and medical director of the Shealy-Sorin Wellness Institute. Both doctors recommend the Biogenics System as part of your overall commitment to self-health and enhancing your positivity.