So you're unmotivated. You're unproductive.
You have mood swings and difficulty taming your inner cookie monster.
And you're sick of it.
You're sick of not getting anything done and being an ass to others.
You're sick of not being able to enjoy life more.
It ends here, and I'm going to show you how.
Below I've listed 15 actionable and science-backed ways you can get started on RIGHT NOW to get your dopamine levels soaring and feel better again.
They're simple, they're fast. But they do require consistency.
You don't have to do them all. Just pick one and stick with it.
Just do it.
But before we dive in, let me let you in on a little secret…
Dopamine it not what you think.
So what exactly is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter.
In simple terms, it means that dopamine is a messenger molecule that transmits signals between different nerve cells in the brain. But it really doesn’t stop there: dopamine affects your brain (and your body!) in so many ways, that it would require entire books to explain.
All you really need to know is that it affects your mood, your productivity as well as your ability to focus. It also plays a key role in addictions.
What dopamine is most famous for is its ability to lift your mood - or make you depressed, depending on the dopamine levels in your brain.
But in reality, it’s not so simple.
You may not want to read this, but here we go.
The truth about dopamine deficiency
We read it in the news all the time: dopamine - the pleasure chemical.
Dopamine isn’t the be all end all of pleasure and happiness. Dopamine, by itself, doesn’t actually make you happy or sad.
But it IS the trigger that makes you do something that, in turn, makes you happy. It’s basically a brain chemical that motivates you to take specific actions that lead to positive outcomes.
Let’s say you love meeting up with your friends for a night out. While you’re out, you’re still having fun. You’re still enjoying yourself.
But with low dopamine levels, you’re not very likely to call your friends to meet up with you later that evening.
So while it doesn’t give you actual pleasure, it does play a HUGE role in actually getting you to experience pleasure.
#1 Boost your feel-good hormones with Indian curry
So maybe you're not a fan of Indian food, but what makes this cuisine so healthful is the liberal use of spices. And they are affecting your brain chemistry as well.
The spotlight is on turmeric, which contains the powerful compound curcumin. This is what gives a yellow color to dishes and adds a nice, peppery flavor. But that's not all it can do.
Turmeric may be the healthiest spice in existence if you look at the numerous studies that have been done on it.
What makes turmeric especially useful is its effect on dopamine levels in the brain. While it doesn't directly increase dopamine production, it does reduce the hormone's breakdown, increasing brain levels in the process.
And even though turmeric may not be that tasty on it's own, it has numerous uses in the kitchen:
- Enjoy turmeric for dinner - Just a teaspoon of turmeric added to rice can have powerful effects. Add the spice together with the water when cooking rice (or other grains). Also add a dash of pepper to increase the bioavailability of the compound curcumin.
- Spice up your smoothies - Reading through this article you will soon come to discover my great love for smoothies. What I love about them is that you can add all kinds of healthy spices and veggies without actually tasting them. So once you got hooked on smoothies like I am, boost their nutritional content by adding 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and a small pinch of pepper and blend everything together.
- Eat your curry - By far my favorite way to enjoy the health benefits of curcumin is by eating curries. Curry powder makes it especially easy to enjoy curry on a regular basis and powder already contain both turmeric and pepper. Grab a bunch of your favorite veggies (3 to 4 cups should be enough), stir-fry them in a hot pan with just a little bit of oil and let them cook for 5 to 7 minutes. You want them tender but still with a bite. Now add a can of (light) coconut milk, 1 to 2 tablespoons of curry powder, a spoonful of fresh grated ginger and some salt and pepper to taste. Serve with yellow rice (see #1) for a double boost of turmeric.
- Enjoy a soothing night-time drink - Have trouble sleeping? Kill two birds with one stone by making a turmeric drink: Warm one cup of milk on the stove. Don’t bring to a boil, just gently warm the milk. Once warm, take off the heat and mix in half a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of cinnamon and a teaspoon (or to taste) of honey. Drink while warm and enjoy a great night of sleep as well as increased dopamine levels!
#2 Boost your gut and brain health with probiotics
So did you know you have all of these little critters squirming around in your gut? All of these bacteria together make up your gut biome.
Why should you care?
Because your gut biome interacts with your brain in ways that are still largely unknown. What we do know, though, is that their impact on our health is HUGE.
So huge in fact, that specific strains of bacteria can stimulate dopamine production in your brain significantly.
A healthy gut makes for a healthy brain. A healthy brain equals sufficient dopamine release, which in turn makes you feel better, have more energy and be more productive.
But how do you make sure your gut is healthy? And more specifically, how do you get the specific bacteria that boost dopamine release to thrive in your gut?
The answer is probiotics. Now, before you open a new browser window and start googling probiotic supplements, let me spare you the effort.
Sure, supplements can be helpful, but by far the best way to introduce new bacteria strains to your gut is by eating the right foods.
It's one thing to supplement the right bacteria, it's an entirely different story to actually support them and make them thrive. This is where the right food comes in.
So do you need all kinds of exotic ingredients to get a healthy gut biome?
Not at all, in fact, I bet you already have some of these foods lying around in your fridge or pantry.
Let me give you some ideas:
1. Have some yogurt - This one is a no-brainer. Everyone knows yogurt is full of beneficial bacteria, but yogurt also happens to contain the exact strains you need to boost your dopamine levels. Why not have a cup of yogurt for dessert every day? Or start your day with some yogurt sweetened with a teaspoon of honey and with some fresh of frozen berries on top. Yum! Just make sure the yogurt you buy contains live bacteria. It should say so right on the package.
2. Munch on cold spuds - Yes! Potatoes contain probiotics and they're about the easiest, cheapest and most common food around. Don't just boil a bunch of spuds and call it a day, though. To optimize the probiotics content of potatoes you need to boil them first and stash them away in your fridge for the night. Eat them cold the next day or reheat them in a frying pan. My personal favorite way to enjoy these potatoes is by making a big batch in the weekend. I then cut up a potato or two into fries, mix them up with garlic and other herbs and broil them in the oven for 10 minutes. Crispy!
3. Go green...bananas! - Don't you just hate it when your local supermarket only carries green bananas? You may be surprised to find out that these green little gems are actually full of probiotics. Don't let them get ripe, but dig right in while they're still green and firm. A green banana a day keeps the doctor away - and makes for a healthy brain and a happy you.
#3 Load up on iron with green leafy veggies (...or chocolate)
You know how everyone tells you how to eat red meat to get your iron in? Don’t listen to them.
Not that red meat doesn't contain any iron, it does, but other sources of iron are much healthier for you. And it might surprise you that 3 oz of spinach contains more iron that 3 oz of red meat!
Iron is important because it transports oxygen to every cell in your body. If your iron is low, you'll notice the effects in your energy levels.
Research now also suggests that iron consumption plays a significant role in dopamine production.
But there’s more to green veggies (or cocoa for that matter) than just their iron content. They also contain antioxidants. It's these antioxidants that stop free radicals from damaging the brain cells that produce dopamine. Since dopamine is easy to oxidize, you need all the antioxidants you can get to protect your brain and get the dopamine flowing.
The stars of the show are vitamin C, E and beta carotene and carotenoids. You can find them in leafy greens, orange veggies, fruits and nuts and seeds.
Here's how you can stock up on iron while doing your overall health a favor:
- Forget supplements, get your iron from real food - Not only are supplements expensive and more often than not, less effective than real food, they can actually do more harm than good. The best way to boost your iron levels is by starting the day with a green smoothie. Just add a big handful of spinach to your morning smoothie and enjoy better energy and focus the rest of the day.
- Drink some hot cocoa- Fancy a late-night snack but don’t want to load up on sugary sweets? Make some hot chocolate instead. Cocoa is full of iron and antioxidants. Take a cup of milk (any type, almond, cow’s, soy are all good), warm it on the stove and add a tablespoon of cocoa, half an ounce of dark chocolate and sweetener of choice. Mix well, pour in a mug and enjoy while it’s hot!
- Snack on trail mix - Raisins and nuts contain ample amounts of iron and antioxidants. A killer combo! Make your own trail mix by combining one part raisins to two parts of your favorite nuts and seeds. While this makes a delicious snack, it’s also calorically dense, so it’s best not to overdo it. A handful a day should do the trick.
#4 Get rid of your sugar addiction by squashing your appetite for sweets
That late-night sugar-laden snack you’ve been having every day since the dawn of time is not only making those jeans too tight, it’s also messing with your brain chemistry.
Our brain behaves much the same way on sugar as it does on heroin. It increases dopamine production, making us crave that huge spike that makes us feel so good. Sure, every high is followed by a low, and the only way to get it back up is by loading up on...you guessed it...another pack of those irresistible Krispy Kreme donuts with a colorful glaze. It takes one to know one.
You may be wondering...why stay away from sugar if it’s increasing the dopamine levels in the brain? Good question! While sugar does make your dopamine levels soar, it does so in an unnatural way. Worse yet, is that it’s making you addicted to those spikes, because without them you feel bad.
The point is that once you overcome your cravings for sweets, your dopamine levels will naturally return to normal after a few days - making you feel all the better for it.
So how exactly do you get rid of your sugar addiction? Just follow the steps below.
- If it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth - First things first, make sure you remove every temptation from your home. Find yourself a cardboard box or a disposable basket of some sort, fill it with the sweets you stashed away in your pantry and take it to your nearest food bank.
- Fill your fruit bowl with a variety of colorful fruits - Every time the sugar monster rears its ugly head, grab a piece of fruit and eat it up. Don’t think about how you’d rather enjoy a fresh cookie, just eat. By the time you’re done, you’ll be surprised about just how much your cravings have dissipated.
- Get chewing - Still having cravings? Make sure you always have some sugar-free chewing gum around the house. It distracts you and keeps you busy at the same time. It’s a great alternative to stuffing your face with cookies….or, you know, the aforementioned donuts.
- Stay away from all types of refined sugar - Like an ex-smoker who can’t just smoke one cigarette without risking to becoming a full-blown addict, a sugarholic is equally sensitive to any type of sugar that feeds his addiction. While sugar naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables does not elicit the same response, it is important to stay away from all types of refined sugar (that includes maple syrup, honey and all types of so-called ‘’healthier’’ sugar!). Even when going out. Use Stevia as an alternative if you must - though, you will soon discover that your cravings and taste for sweets dissipate if you simply stay away from them.
Sound too easy? Reaching your goals doesn’t need to be complicated. All it takes is consistency.
#5 Relax your mind and boost your mood with personalized meditation sessions
So we all now meditation comes with a whole bunch of benefits, but did you know that it can increase brain dopamine levels by 65%?
If you ever watched Eat Pray Love, you undoubtedly remember the scenes where Liz, a.k.a. Julia Roberts, had to meditate for an hour in a silent room. If I’d choose to believe everything I see in movies, I would have never been able to experience how powerful meditation can really be.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be complex and definitely doesn’t require unbreakable patience. In fact, meditation can be whatever you want it to be. It’s simply about finding a way to stop engaging every thought that comes to mind and focusing on a single thing. And not in the least, to spend some quality time alone.
Looking at it that way, it’s easy to figure out how you can make meditation a regular part of your day.
- Make a list - Take a pen and paper. Write down a list of at least 5 things you love to do that help you get your mind of things. Do you love baking? Reading? Cooking? Or are you more of a creative type who enjoys painting or even sewing? Just write down whatever comes to mind. Then, pick two or three items on your list that are easy to implement in your daily life.
- Take a look at your daily schedule - To really get the most out of your ‘meditation sessions’, it’s important to do it every day. Have a look at your schedule and block out 20 minutes to spend on the items you picked from your list. But remember - consistency is key.
- Make the time - No excuses. If you blocked out 20 minutes to read a book after you wake up in the morning, prepare by putting the book on your night stand next to your bed, so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up. If you decided to have a run every morning for 30 minutes after breakfast, put your gym clothes where you can’t ignore them.
- Step it up - If you’d like to go more traditional, just remember to start small. It isn’t all that effective to push yourself to sit still for an hour at your first try. The best way to get started is by choosing an object to focus on. I find that a candle makes it easy. Find a quiet room and put a pillow on the floor to sit on (there’s nothing as distracting as a painful tushy!). Now, put a candle in front of you and light it. Just make sure it’s in a safe position. You don’t want it to cause a fire while you’re in a deep trance.
Now, take a deep breath and focus on the light of the candle. No matter how many thoughts are passing by, let them go and focus on the candle again. Make sure to keep breathing calmly and deeply. Keep going for 10 minutes. It might be helpful to set a soft alarm when the time is up. If you’re in a happy place, keep going.
Rinse and repeat every day for one week. The second week, work your way up to 20 minutes.
#6 Make your gut (and your brain!) happy with a daily dose of beans
Protein, and more specifically the amino acid tyrosine, plays a very important role in the production of dopamine. And while you could just load up on chicken and eggs, a serving of beans once a day is a much healthier way to get there.
In fact, you’d get the best of both worlds by choosing legumes over other protein sources: Beans contain resistant starch, which feeds the gut microbiota in your belly. Gut microbes have now been shown to produce specific hormones as well as neurotransmitters similar to the ones in your brain, and a direct connection between your brain and your gut has been found to affect brain health in a myriad of ways.
Not only can a healthy gut help you to shed some unwanted pounds and lower your risk of specific cancers, it can also boost dopamine levels in your brain!
Need ideas on how to add legumes to your daily meals?
Get them here:
- Make tofu the star of the show - Soybeans and tofu are particularly good sources of tyrosine. Tofu also makes an easy swap for meat. Simply substitute 3 oz of tofu for your regular serving of meat. The best way to prepare tofu is by pressing out as much liquid as possible without turning it to mush. Cut the tofu into cubes and throw them in a dish with a few spoonfuls of soy sauce. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and then roast the cubes in a 400 degree preheated oven for 25 minutes, giving them a good stir halfway through the baking time.
- Boost your mood and speed up your metabolism with a protein-rich breakfast - You don’t need to be a tofu lover to enjoy the benefits of tyrosine. White beans also pack a heavy punch at over 50% of the recommended daily intake of tyrosine in a single cup. White beans, such as cannellini or navy, have the added advantage of having a rather mild flavor. So how to use them? Throw them in your smoothie, of course. You won’t taste them though, promise! So next time you start your day with a luscious banana smoothie, throw in half a cup of drained and rinsed white beans. That will tide you over until lunch!
- Not a fan of beans? Instead, take a handful of nuts or seeds to work with you to snack on during the day. Peanuts, sunflower seeds and almonds are all great options. Alternatively, you can load up on tyrosine by substituting wild rice for the nutrient-poor white rice you usually call dinner.
#7 Throw out your coffeemaker and begin your day with a dopamine-boosting drink
In the same way sugar screws up your brain chemistry, boosting dopamine production in unnatural ways, caffeine also gives you a temporary boost followed by an all-time low that you need to fill up again with a new cup of joe.
Worse even, as time goes by you build up a natural caffeine tolerance, making you need three cups of coffee to properly wake up, instead of just one.
Instead, start your day off right by choosing a drink that increases your feel-good hormone naturally.
Here's how you do it:
- Wake up with a cup of green tea - Green tea has been shown to naturally boost dopamine in rats. Research also shows it can help you lose weight and offers up a myriad of other health benefits. And you don’t even have to fire up the coffeemaker. Simply add the teabag (with or without additional herbs or flavors) to a cup, add boiling water and there you have it. Simple as that.
- Whiz up a banana-rich smoothie - Do you prefer a cool and thirst-quenching drink to wake you up in the morning? Bananas to the rescue! This exotic yet common fruit contains natural compounds that spur your brain to produce dopamine. Make a quick and easy banana smoothie by adding one or two bananas to a blender with a cup of your fruit of choice and a handful of spinach or kale. Pour in a tall glass and enjoy.
- Not crazy about the color green? Enjoy a simple drink made of two bananas blended with a teaspoon of cinnamon. The cinnamon also helps to balance your blood sugar levels, so you don’t scream for lunch just an hour later.
#8 Set your alarm clock earlier to fight off depression
You might not like hearing this after I took away your coffee...but what if I told you that you can increase dopamine production, boost your mood and fight off a depression by sleeping less?
Studies performed nearly 50 years ago have already shown that so called ‘wake therapy’ has an antidepressogenic effect. And yet, we still believe that sleeping more is the answer. Now, a recent study has once again found that a single sleepless night can have powerful dopamine boosting effects.
Does that mean you have to skip sleep for an entire night every week or so? Of course not, don’t be silly. The same study has also shown that a sleepless night can result in serious cognitive deficits. In other words, you’ll be nothing more than a walking zombie the next day.
But there are other ways to achieve the same effect - without the drawbacks:
- Set your alarm early - Easy as pie - but don’t go crazy. If you set your alarm two hours earlier than what you’re used to on the first day, you’re not gonna wake up. I bet you’d even sleep through your alarm and end up waking up later rather than earlier. Instead, set your alarm 10 minutes early. Repeat this for three days total. Now, go back another 10 minutes and repeat again for three days. Rinse and repeat until you reached a total of 6 to 7 hours sleep per night, but no less. It takes some testing to figure out how much sleep makes you feel best.
- Don’t take naps throughout the day - Naps are nice, everyone loves naps. But if you have a tendency to feel depressed in the morning, or simply suffer from horrible moods, naps are only going to make things worse. The reason you feel better as the day progresses, is because the depressogenic effects of the sleep from the previous night wear off during the day. Go back to sleep during this time, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, and you’re right back where you started.
- Get in as much daylight as possible - Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder? Then make sure that in addition to the steps above, get out of the house as soon as the sun rises. You want to maximize the number of hours you get sunlight exposure. Having a walk for 20 minutes right after waking up is a great way to become a morning person. And to really get your dopamine levels roaring, it’s important that the sunlight hits your eyes. So make sure you’re not wearing any glasses when you go outside.
#9 Use cold exposure without having to suffer the agonizing pain of an ice bath
Tim Ferris was one of the first to popularize ice baths as a way of stimulating your metabolism and burning fat. But cold exposure has a lot more to offer than just that. Exposure to cold water can increase dopamine production by more than 200%!
Now, few of us are brave enough to conquer an ice bath more than once in a lifetime. Fortunately, we don’t have to. While water is the most effective conductor of cold, there are more ways to skin a cat. Ray Cronise, who inspired the ice bath madness of Tim Ferris, studied cold exposure in depth and takes a more mellow approach.
Based on his recommendations as well as scientific studies, here’s how you can use cold exposure today - with no pain!
- Sleep without covers - While this may not seem the most comfortable option, it’s actually not that bad. Here’s how you do it: Before going to bed, open a window so cool air can enter the room. Take away any covers from the bed and go to sleep with socks and gloves. I know it sounds weird, but it works!
- Decrease the temperature in your home by 2 degrees - It may not sound like much, but you’ll notice that any more than 2 degrees will feel uncomfortably cold. It works because you’re exposed to colder temperatures all day long. Just don’t go and add another layer of clothes, as that will defeat the purpose.
- Take a cold shower - I’ve included this one for the die-hards among us. Although it’s simple enough, you should really aim to do this every day. Simply have your regular shower in the morning, and when you finish, switch the water to cold, and make sure you work your way up your legs and arms first, before showering your upper body with cold water. Do this for 30 seconds and switch back to warm water, working your way up your body again. Now repeat this process three times. That’s it!
- Go out in the cold - But forget about bringing your jacket. And don’t even think about wearing several sweaters. Some light clothing will do. Sounds extreme but it’s quite refreshing actually. Don’t think you’re being a hero by going outside in your gym clothes when it’s 15 degrees Celsius (60 F) outside. 0 to 5 degrees (30-40 F) is more like it. If the cold feels uncomfortable to you at first, you may wear some gloves and a scarf, but no more than that!
An added bonus of cold exposure? Your body will adjust to colder temperatures over time, making you less sensitive to cold.
#10 Get your groove on with your favorite music
Do you ever completely lose yourself in the moment when your favorite song is playing? It turns out, this is actually a good thing, even if you feel slightly embarrassed afterwards.
Music, like anything else we really enjoy, makes our brain produce dopamine. Sometimes you can see the effects of this spike in dopamine on your skin - it can give you goosebumps.
A great way to step it up a notch is by moving your bod to your favorite music. The exercise will provide another mood-boosting effect caused by the spike in serotonin, another well-known happy hormone.
The best part?
This is one of the easiest items on the list you can do right now and get your dopamine levels soaring. Here are some ideas on how to get your groove on every day:
- Swap your alarm clock for your favorite music - Get in the groove before you even got out of bed by using your smartphone’s built-in alarm. Upload your favorite song and set it as your alarm. Waking up has never been easier!
- Use music as a stress-relief - Whenever you feel stressed, take a break and find the nearest bathroom or any room where you can have some privacy. Turn on your favorite song and dance around and enjoy the moment for 5 or 10 minutes. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to face whatever is stressing you out.
- Sing your heart out - You don’t need to listen to music to experience its effects, you can also make music yourself. No need to deny it, you probably already sing your heart out whenever you take a shower, why not make it a regular part of your day? Find a place where you enjoy some privacy and can’t disturb anyone and sing your favorite songs. And don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the lyrics, humming is allowed too. As long as you enjoy yourself.
- Give your roommates a break (or not!) and use an instrument instead - So you don’t have the best singing voice, so what. You can still make music with an instrument. Maybe you play guitar, piano or the flute? Whatever you choose, make a commitment to play some music for 10 minutes every day - you may even use this as your meditation session.
#11 Increase dopamine release with intermittent fasting
I know what you're thinking. I promised you ways to increase dopamine naturally and that you could do today, and here I go telling you to fast.
But hear me out for a moment...
Intermittent fasting is actually something you can start with today and reap the immediate benefits.
Research has shown time and again that fasting can increase life span, decrease belly fat (and butt fat for that matter!) and stimulate dopamine release.
Studies have also found that intermittent fasting can increase dopamine action, giving you a double boost for half the effort.
Before you scroll down, thinking this is way too hard, I promise you that intermittent fasting is actually quite easy.
And there are several ways to go:
1. Skip breakfast - For me, this one is tough. Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day and also allows me to get creative as I have plenty of time in the morning to prepare my breakfast. But I also know that many people find it easy to skip breakfast. Maybe because of time constraints, maybe because of other reasons. If you struggle to eat a decent breakfast, I now give you an excuse to skip it altogether. All you need to do is to make sure that you're eating within a window of 6-10 hours. 8 hours is ideal and easy to do for most. So, for example, if you skip breakfast, you could have lunch at around noon and dinner (and don't forget dessert!) before 8 PM.
2. Skip dinner - If you're like me and couldn't possibly imagine starting your day without a hearty breakfast, then skip dinner instead.
3. Be rebellious - Challenge the status quo and do your own thing if you don't believe in something like 'meal times'. If that’s you, simply eat within the aforementioned 8-hour window. No snacks or drinks other than water, tea or coffee outside your feeding window, though.
#12 Get physical with your partner (or get a massage...)
Keep it in your pants, you filthy animal ;) We’re not talking about sex...though that’s certainly a great way to get your dopamine levels soaring!
We’re talking about any form of touching. Whatever floats your boat, may it be kissing, cuddling or indeed, making love.
Touching your significant other makes for all kinds of awesome effects in your body. Your oxytocin levels rise, your cortisol levels are reduced and your pleasure hormones are soaring - not to mention the huge dopamine release in your brain.
So touching makes you happy. But what if you don’t have a significant other to share intimate moments with? No need to worry. You can always pay someone to touch you. Sound weird?
Research has found that a massage can get your dopamine levels up by more than 30%.
I doubt I need to give you an action plan here, but I'll do it anyways for those of you who need some hand-holding along the way:
- Pick a day in the week for date night - We all have lots going on, especially if you have kiddos. If you're committed to spending quality time with your partner and getting your dopamine flowing, date night is the way to go. Don't overcomplicate things, just choose a day of the week that works best for the both of you and really hang out together. The only essential is to get physical! Get some nice essential oils and make everything ready for a massage. Add some candlelight to really set the mood.
- Book a massage - ‘Nuff said.
- Cuddle your pet - Yes, your pet counts too! Make some time every day to touch your pet. Added bonus: by having physical contact with animals, you’re exchanging bacteria that can strengthen your gut biome, making you all the healthier for it. Of course, there’s also the danger of coming in contact with potentially dangerous bugs. Always have your pet properly checked by a vet.
- Practice acupressure - Practice, you say? Even if you have no clue about how acupressure works, there are some easy techniques you can practice right now. Alternatively, you may want to book an acupuncture session and see how that makes you feel. Acupressure may be of help to correct imbalances in your neurotransmitter levels.
- Shake hands - I’m not even kidding. Shaking hands is a valid way of touching. And here too you have the added benefit of exchanging live bacteria that may reach your gut biome. Just don’t touch anyone that looks like they don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
#13 Stop sitting and get moving
You've undoubtedly heard about how sitting is the new smoking. It turns out, sitting is also a real downer when it comes to your brain dopamine levels. When you sit for too long, like most of us with a sedentary job do nowadays, your body is unable to function effectively.
Our bodies were made to stand up, not to sit for hours on end. Your circulation doesn't work as well as it should and oxygen transportation in the body goes down.
Your brain function also decreases, slowing down dopamine production and tampering with your ability to focus. You experience fatigue and your chances of getting heart disease, diabetes and especially obesity are going up – by a LOT.
Interestingly, prolonged sitting can also lead to depression. If you think about it though, that's not at all surprising. If you're sitting down all day, you're not moving. And if you’re not moving, you're missing out on all the benefits exercise has to offer.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our job and doing something else. But that doesn’t mean that you have to accept your fate, there’s still plenty you can do to avoid the consequences of the new smoking.
- Move your bod once an hour - It’s not enough to go to the gym once a day if you’re sitting down for hours on end. While you can’t mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting completely, you can make them less severe. The best way to counteract the long sitting sessions is by moving around for 5 minutes every hour. It’s really not hard to do. Set your alarm at the same time for every hour you’re sitting down and walk around for 5 minutes. If you want you can also dance, do some aerobics or whatever else tickles your fancy. Just make sure you break through the monotony of sitting by moving every hour.
- Get fancy schmancy with a standing desk - If sitting is so bad for you, why not keep standing up? A standing desk is the ultimate solution for better energy, focus and moods. There’s no need to spend a couple of thousand bucks on a standing desk. It’s simple enough to create one yourself. If you’re working at an office, you may want to discuss your plans with management, but if you’re working from home, DIY is the way to go. Follow the simple instructions here to turn any desk into a standing desk.
- Minimize your time spent sitting - So maybe you have to sit at work. But at least you can move around more when you’re not at the office. Take a walk during lunch break, bike to work instead of taking the car or subway. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. All of these little things add up. And they actually increase your metabolism, burn belly fat and make you feel better about yourself - which in turn motivates you to take the stairs more often!
#14 ABC - Always Be Curious
We get excited by new things. May it be a new movie coming out in the cinema, a new dish we haven't tasted before or a new destination we haven't yet discovered.
This excitement is what creates a burst of dopamine and feel-good hormones in our brain.
By far the best way to discover something new is by browsing the internet. But I'm not gonna suggest that you stare at your computer all day, because sitting is the new smoking (check out #13).
Instead I want you to focus on ABC = Always Be Curious.
- Strike up a conversation - People have so much interesting stuff to share, if you would just listen. I’m not talking about small talk. Ask questions. Like, what was your last holiday destination or what’s your favorite movie/dish/band, etc.
Don’t just wait for their answer and move on to a different subject. Really get into it, ask them what they loved about their last holiday, why they chose that destination in the first place, and so on. An added bonus is that socializing in itself is a valuable tool for increasing dopamine naturally.
Introverts, don’t fret. It doesn’t need to be a complete stranger or a mom or dad you’ve only met at school once.
You can also hook up with a friend, partner, family member or what have you. What’s important is that you’re curious and listen to the stories of others.
- Use that information - So maybe you heard something interesting, like how your best friend went to Hawaii once and had the time of his life. Now is the time to turn to your computer and plan your next holiday to Hawaii. Or look up a recipe for that Egyptian Molokhia your friend couldn’t stop salivating over. Or maybe buy a ticket for that new movie you just heard about.
- Always Be Curious - It doesn’t stop there. Keep an open mind and learn what you can. Listen to people, make new friends and travel to places you haven’t heard of before. It makes for an exciting life and sky-high dopamine levels.
#15 Get motivated and productive with little reminders of victory
You know how you often get depressed by looking at all the stuff that still needs to be done while it seems as if you've accomplished so little?
I propose a new way of working. Rather than keeping a mile-long to-do list, keep a mile-long list of all the things you've achieved or got done.
We all get overwhelmed by all the tasks at hand sometimes. So much so that procrastination is the order of the day.
Studies have now found that dopamine may actually be to blame for your lack of motivation. Low dopamine levels could lead to procrastination.
But procrastination actually leads to even lower dopamine levels.
Here's how to break through this vicious cycle:
- Pick one thing from the list and do it daily - I’ve given you numerous action points right in this article that you can do right now. I’m not asking for much, and I’m definitely not asking you to take on the entire list. Not everything is up your alley and some things may even be impossible for you given your personal circumstances. Just pick one and commit. Block out 10 minutes from your calendar every day. Do it in advance, so you’re prepared. Better yet, do it now. I’m waiting.
Done? Awesome. You’ll have those dopamine levels rising in no time.
- Create a reversed to-do list - A done-list. Let’s go with that. Just remember you heard about it here first. So what is a ‘done-list’? As I told you about in the introduction, it’s much more motivating to see all of the stuff you already achieved. Now, I’m not proposing you throw away your to-do list entirely, we’ll get to that later.
But I am proposing that you create a list by the end of every week and write down, point by point, what you’ve achieved that week. You can include what projects you’ve finished, but you can also include a few major wins. Like, maybe you won that project you were after for so long, or you just got a new promotion you’ve been working so hard for.
You could even include finally finishing a major blog post you were working on for ages.
Just take a pen and paper and write down what you’ve achieved so far this week (or even in the last few weeks). Haven’t achieved anything yet? Never mind, just put pen and paper on your night stand, so you’re ready to start on your done-list whenever you feel like you finished something.
- Write a bite-sized to-do list - Forget about traditional to-do lists that have you write down EVERYTHING you still need to get to. They’re not very effective, and I’d argue they’re even counterproductive. Instead, pick two to three of the most urgent tasks and write them on a piece of paper the night before. Don’t start with ‘’finish writing my book’’. That will make you run for the hills...or hide under the covers. Make them bite-sized. For example, write down ‘’make list of research resources for the book’’ as your first item. The second task could be ‘’create a 5 interview question’’, and the third ‘’reach out to 5 potential interviewees’’. Suddenly, your list becomes quite doable and you’ll find that finishing each item is a breeze.
Remember, it's not about doing every item on the list. It's about picking an item that's easy for you to do and do it consistently.
Start small and work your way up.
Once you start, you'll feel better. And when you feel better, you're able to accomplish more.
So which step are you starting with right now?
Let me know in the comments and share these dopamine-boosting tips with your friends!