How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

Published on: 31 Oct 2020
happy mother with son

Updated 12/19/2022.

Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a crucial role in the brain’s reward system. When our brains release dopamine, it gives us feelings of pleasure and happiness. These emotions can help motivate us to carry out essential tasks. However, too much or too little dopamine can lead to certain mental health conditions. 

Dopamine deficiency is one of the underlying causes of depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis. On the other hand, increased dopamine levels can lead to addiction and ADHD. Aside from regulating emotions, dopamine is also crucial for muscle functions and brain function, which explains why a person with Parkinsons’ disease has low dopamine levels. 

Knowing this, it’s crucial to have healthy dopamine levels. If your brain isn’t producing enough dopamine and the low levels are concerning, you might be feeling blue, sad, or even depressed. Thankfully, if you want to learn how to increase dopamine naturally, there are several proven methods that you can try. Read on to discover the top 10 tips for naturally increasing dopamine levels. 

“Do Good Feel Good. The dopamine circuits turn on the reward center in the brain. “The feeling good” comes when you help someone and see a smile. It can also come from when you exercise, eat, hug, or when you’re praised and loved.”

Talkspace therapist Dr. Muhammad Munir

1. Get More Exercise

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a hormone that can relieve pain and stress and lift your mood. While endorphins can improve your overall well-being, they’re just one of the many benefits of physical activity. 

Regular exercise can also reduce stress hormones that interfere with dopamine production. Animal studies show that aerobic exercise can boost dopamine levels in the brain. An exercise routine might do the trick if you want to figure out how to increase dopamine fast. Learn more details about how exercise reduces stress.

2. Spend More Time Listening to Music

You may get even more out of your workouts if you listen to music when you work out. Researchers have found that dopamine receptors in the brain are activated when we listen to music that we enjoy. 

Of course, you don’t have to hit the gym to reap the benefits of music. Listening to soothing instrumental music can also increase dopamine levels. Set aside time every day to listen to music you love if you’re looking for a simple way to lift your mood. 

3. Add More Protein to Your Diet 

A crucial part of learning how to increase dopamine naturally is taking a closer look at your diet. To make dopamine, your body needs an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine is naturally found in many protein-rich foods. Foods that are high in tyrosine include:

  • Beef
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Dairy products
  • Tofu
  • Almonds
  • Beans

You can boost your dopamine levels by adding more protein to your diet. Try to include at least one protein source in every meal to sustain healthy dopamine levels. 

4. Spend More Time in the Sun

Have you ever felt down when you’re cooped up inside? The sun is one of the best natural remedies for depression because it provides our bodies with the vital nutrient, vitamin D. Sunlight exposure also triggers the release of serotonin. This hormone acts as a mood stabilizer. People who spend more time in the sun have higher dopamine levels on average

Not only can the sun boost your dopamine levels, but it can help prevent dopamine system dysfunction. Research shows that vitamin D can protect neurons that produce dopamine from oxidative stress. 

Note that while some sunlight is beneficial, UV rays can damage the skin. You can enjoy the benefits while minimizing risk by wearing sunblock, sunglasses, and other forms of sun protection. It’s also best to limit sun exposure between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM when UV levels are at their highest.

5. Clear Your Mind with Meditation

Meditation involves using physical or mental techniques to clear your head and reach a calm and stable state. There are many ways to meditate, including guided meditation, mindfulness, and progressive relaxation. 

Several studies have found that dopamine levels rise during meditation. Moreover, this boost is more significant than it would be after just resting. If you’re interested in learning how to increase dopamine naturally, you may want to read up on meditation techniques.

6. Supplement Your Diet

A healthy diet can increase your dopamine levels, but you may need help to get everything from food alone. Thankfully, you can correct nutritional deficiencies with supplements. Ask your doctor about nutrition blood tests showing you which vitamins you need.

Certain supplements could help you raise your dopamine levels. For example, vitamin D3 supplements are linked to increased dopamine production, as are B-complex vitamins. Experts are also researching other vitamins and supplements that could boost dopamine levels, like magnesium and green tea extract.

7. Boost Your Gut Health with Probiotics

While the brain releases dopamine, other parts of your body also help regulate dopamine production — including nerve cells in the gut. There’s a close connection between the gut and the brain, which is why whole-body health is so important. 

Probiotics are living organisms that help grow healthy bacteria in the gut. Experts still have much to learn about how probiotics affect dopamine production. However, some studies show that they can boost levels. Foods that contain probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi

8. Find Ways to Manage Stress

Part of figuring out how to naturally increase dopamine is finding ways to deal with stress. Chronic stress can cause dopamine dysfunction, and if your stress isn’t managed, it can cause your levels to decline. 

Stress-management techniques can help you relax so your body can produce the dopamine it needs. Make sure you’re setting aside time for relaxing activities and the hobbies you enjoy. Use meditation and deep breathing exercises to lower stress levels.

9. Take Breaks to Stretch

Not only can a sedentary lifestyle harm your health, but it might also cause your dopamine levels to decline. You can quickly fix this by taking quick breaks to stretch throughout the day. Studies show that standing after prolonged sitting boosts dopamine production. 

Take a minute or two to stand up and stretch every hour or so. In addition to increasing dopamine, stretching improves your posture and energy levels!

10. Make Sure You’re Getting Plenty of Sleep

Our brains naturally release dopamine when we wake up in the morning. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can interfere with dopamine production. This is one of the many ways how sleep can affect mental health.

One of the best ways to keep dopamine levels balanced is to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. You can get more rest and sleep more deeply by improving your sleep hygiene. Easy tips include avoiding coffee and food before bed and making sure you sleep in a quiet, dark space free of distractions. 

Find Professional Treatment

A low mood, chronic fatigue, and lack of motivation can all be signs of low dopamine levels. If you want to learn how to increase dopamine fast, Talkspace can help. We’ll work with you to boost your dopamine so you can get more enjoyment out of life and discover how to be happy again.

Our online therapy platform makes getting mental health help easy, accessible, and affordable. Learn more about Talkspace to get started today.

Sources:

  1. Basso JC, Suzuki WA. The effects of acute exercise on mood, cognition, neurophysiology, and neurochemical pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity. 2017;2(2):127-152. doi:10.3233/bpl-160040. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928534/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  2. Heijnen S, Hommel B, Kibele A, Colzato LS. Neuromodulation of aerobic exercise—a review. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016;6. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4703784/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  3. Blood AJ, Zatorre RJ. Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2001;98(20):11818-11823. doi:10.1073/pnas.191355898. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC58814/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  4. Salimpoor VN, Benovoy M, Larcher K, Dagher A, Zatorre RJ. Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience. 2011;14(2):257-262. doi:10.1038/nn.2726. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21217764/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  5. Daubner SC, Le T, Wang S. Tyrosine hydroxylase and regulation of dopamine synthesis. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2011;508(1):1-12. doi:10.1016/j.abb.2010.12.017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065393/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  6. Lambert GW, Reid C, Kaye DM, Jennings GL, Esler MD. Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet. 2002;360(9348):1840-1842. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(02)11737-5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12480364/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  7. Tsai H-Y, Chen KC, Yang YK, et al. Sunshine-exposure variation of human striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in healthy volunteers. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2011;35(1):107-110. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2010.09.014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20875835/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  8. Lima LA, Lopes MJ, Costa RO, et al. Vitamin D protects dopaminergic neurons against neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in Hemiparkinsonian Rats. Journal of Neuroinflammation. 2018;15(1). doi:10.1186/s12974-018-1266-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30170624/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  9. Kjaer TW, Bertelsen C, Piccini P, Brooks D, Alving J, Lou HC. Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Cognitive Brain Research. 2002;13(2):255-259. doi:10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00106-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11958969/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  10. Seyedi M, Gholami F, Samadi M, et al. The effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on serum BDNF, dopamine, and serotonin in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets. 2019;18(6):496-501. doi:10.2174/1871527318666190703103709. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31269890/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  11. Kennedy D. B vitamins and the brain: Mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  12. Cardoso CC, Lobato KR, Binfaré RW, et al. Evidence for the involvement of the monoaminergic system in the antidepressant-like effect of magnesium. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2009;33(2):235-242. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.11.007. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19059299/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  13. Hamamah S, Aghazarian A, Nazaryan A, Hajnal A, Covasa M. Role of microbiota-gut-brain axis in regulating dopaminergic signaling. Biomedicines. 2022;10(2):436. doi:10.3390/biomedicines10020436. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8962300/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  14. Johnson D, Thurairajasingam S, Letchumanan V, Chan K-G, Lee L-H. Exploring the role and potential of probiotics in the field of Mental Health: Major depressive disorder. Nutrients. 2021;13(5):1728. doi:10.3390/nu13051728. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8161395/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  15. Bloomfield MAP, McCutcheon RA, Kempton M, Freeman TP, Howes O. The effects of psychosocial stress on dopaminergic function and the acute stress response. eLife. 2019;8. doi:10.7554/elife.46797. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6850765/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  16. Wennberg P, Boraxbekk C-J, Wheeler M, et al. Acute effects of breaking up prolonged sitting on fatigue and cognition: A pilot study. BMJ Open. 2016;6(2). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009630. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769400/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  17. Kesner AJ, Lovinger DM. Wake up and smell the dopamine: New mechanisms mediating dopamine activity fluctuations related to sleep and psychostimulant sensitivity. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020;46(4):683-684. doi:10.1038/s41386-020-00903-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8027680/. Accessed November 21, 2022.
  18. Korshunov KS, Blakemore LJ, Trombley PQ. Dopamine: A modulator of circadian rhythms in the central nervous system. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. 2017;11. doi:10.3389/fncel.2017.00091. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376559/. Accessed November 21, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

You May Also Like
demon in mirror cartoon image
Read More
Published on: 17 Nov 2017

How I Learned to Love My Dark Side

Published on: 17 Nov 2017
How I Learned to Love My Dark Side originally appeared on Shine, a free daily text to help you…

Talkspace mental health services