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Why You Need a Healthy Dopamine System

And the 13 Best Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine

Trust me. It is immensely important to have a well-functioning dopamine system. In my early 20s, I struggled with addiction which ruined my dopamine system. It was terrible. Nothing could motivate me or bring me pleasure.

But why should you care about dopamine even if you might not struggle with addiction?

Well, even healthy people can experience a massive improvement in their quality of life if they optimize their dopamine levels and live consciously.

Our habits and daily decisions have the impact to change our neurochemistry, and they influence how we feel a lot.

Certain habits and activities cause a spike in dopamine and a fall below the baseline in the aftermath. Think of typical instant gratification habits such as eating junk food, watching porn, taking drugs, and so on.

On the other hand, we can also engage in healthy habits such as exercising and taking cold showers that raise our dopamine levels without causing a crash in the aftermath.

So, a massive difference exists between how habits and behaviors impact our dopamine levels and other important neurotransmitters.

Let’s dive into what dopamine actually is.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter essential for both motivation and pleasure.

It is often called the pleasure chemical. But of even greater importance is the effect dopamine has on motivation.

Dopamine is a molecule in our brain that impacts our excitement, level of motivation, and willingness to push through discomfort to reach rewards such as money, food, or sex.

Dopamine is also involved in many bodily functions, such as memory, sleep, and movement.

The wonderful neurotransmitter is an essential part of the reward system. The reward system is brain structures that motivate us to seek out things necessary for survival.

In other words, dopamine motivates us to work extra hard for that promotion, bonus check, or find a romantic partner at the bar.

It will make you charged up, ready to go, and excited about the world and the possibilities around you. Your focus will also increase, and working hard will be a lot easier if you have good dopamine levels. You will get a lot more done!

If you increase your dopamine levels, you will feel a ton more pleasure from your daily activities, like working, going to the gym, and spending time with friends.

On the other hand, if we harm our dopamine system, it will affect our willingness and ability to work toward our goals and go out there in the world. And the things we do will give us less pleasure.

Addiction is more common than you think

Addiction impacts our dopamine in a horrendous way. It affects the dopamine system by downregulating dopamine receptors and decreasing dopamine production.

So, if we experience addiction, we will have less dopamine available, and the dopamine we have available will have more difficulty binding to receptors.

In addition, it doesn’t matter what you are addicted to. It could be something as simple as social media addiction, which most of us experience. Addiction of any kind will hurt the dopamine system.

Unfortunately, millions of people go around the world today and fail to recognize that they have low-level symptoms of addiction that could be traced back to things such as spending too much time on social media, YouTube, porn, video games, and so on.

If you have low dopamine, you will experience tiredness, low energy, low motivation, poor ability to concentrate, and generally lacking zest in your life. That can come from addiction or simply allowing too many easy pleasures.

On the other hand, if you have good dopamine levels, you will feel energized, motivated, excited, and focused. Doesn’t it sound better to be in the last camp?

But it doesn’t stop there. Dopamine has even more positive effects:

  • Better mood

  • Improved relationships

  • Lower dependence on drugs and less chance of addiction

  • Higher confidence

Having a healthy dopamine system is extremely important, and it is challenging to state how much of a difference this will make on a person’s health and overall life compared to having low dopamine.

So, how do we optimize it?

Here are some ways to increase your dopamine and ensure that you manage your dopamine system well for the long term:

  1. Take cold showers. In a study, young men spent an hour in cold water of different temperatures. Immersion in water at 14°C increased dopamine by 250 %, and it stayed elevated for hours. You don’t have to be in the cold water for that long to experience benefits, though. The colder the water is, the shorter your exposure must be to get benefits.

  2. Avoid pornography. Pornography increases dopamine a lot, and it can exploit our brain’s love of novelty — new content you have never seen before. That is why many people who watch porn open many tabs and have no interest in finishing a video they are watching. Instead, they swipe to the next image or look for the “perfect video” to continue the supply of dopamine that comes with every new image. As soon as your dopamine levels drop while watching a video, you can click on the next video, and your dopamine shoots up again. That would never be possible before our age of high-speed internet, and as a result, porn can do a lot more harm to our dopamine system now than before tube sites and search engines came. You can boost your dopamine levels to unnaturally high levels and for unnaturally long periods. All this wears out the dopamine system. As a result, many people resort to gradually more extreme versions of porn to compensate for declining dopamine levels or downregulated receptors.

  3. Avoid passive scrolling on social media. All the big online platforms spike our dopamine to keep us engaged. That creates a dopamine deficit in our brains. Spend as little time as possible on social media and avoid being a passive scroller.

  4. Avoid adding layers of digital stimuli in your daily life. By this, I mean avoiding bundling several things together, such as listening to music and watching a video while making food or listening to a podcast and scrolling between your sets at the gym. Sometimes, you should do the activity in front of you without any extra stimuli. If you get a coffee, listen to music, and check social media every 5 minutes while trying to work, you are bombarding your brain with dopamine. That will make it harder to pay attention to your work. Getting used to not having digital stimuli for at least a few hours daily is vital. You will get more pleasure from the simple activities in your life, and your ability to focus will increase.

  5. Avoid gambling, watching porn, heavy drinking, doing drugs, and other things that spike your dopamine a lot and cause a crash afterward. We have easy access to all these things that provide intense stimuli and release a lot of dopamine. It is important to limit our consumption due to the overwhelming abundance surrounding us.

  6. Meditation. One study found that people who meditate regularly experience 65 % higher dopamine levels after meditating for an hour. In addition, the levels were elevated even when the participants were not meditating. So there is no excuse for not taking up the habit. You will also experience many other benefits, such as less stress, anxiety, increased self-awareness, a better attention span, and more.

  7. Work towards your goals. If you have big long-term goals and set small ones daily you can easily accomplish, you will release dopamine when you reach them. You will get a repeated dopamine release when you reach those small goals, motivating you forward and making you feel good. A great way to do this i

  8. s to have a daily to-do list. Every time you check off one of the boxes, you will feel the glittering buzz. It doesn’t matter how small the task is, either.

  9. Sunlight exposure (on the eyes) in the morning releases dopamine. It is also great for regulating your cardiac rhythm. Going out early after you wake up to get some sun is an excellent habit that will help your sleeping pattern and boost your dopamine.

  10. Have an active lifestyle. Working out and being in enough activity is crucial to ensure healthy dopamine levels. With time, regular exercise will ensure you experience higher levels of circulating dopamine and more available dopamine receptors. Exercise is the closest thing to a wonder drug for the brain we have.

  11. Take probiotics. The gut and the brain are closely linked. Probiotics can improve gut health, and research suggests that healthy gut bacteria may be important for dopamine production. A healthy diet may help with dopamine production, and consuming sufficient amounts of protein is also important.

  12. Sleep enough! Sleep deprivation decreases certain dopamine receptors’ availability. There are countless other health benefits to sleeping enough as well.

  13. Be social. Spending time with friends and family releases dopamine and many other feel-good brain chemicals. There is a reason we are known as the social animal. Laughter also releases dopamine, so being a social butterfly has neurochemical benefits in addition to many others.

  14. Take supplements such as Tyrosine and L-theanine.

Final thoughts

Optimizing our dopamine is a lot about removing bad habits such as overstimulating ourselves online.

I know this all too well, unfortunately. Porn addiction hammered my dopamine levels and made me a numb, unmotivated version of myself. When I managed to quit, everything changed.

But even simple things such as spending less time on social media, being more active, and eating and sleeping better can make a huge difference in your dopamine levels and how you feel.

Of course, dopamine is not the only neurotransmitter that matters, but it is crucial. Healthy dopamine levels will help you work harder and for longer, feel more energized, have better relationships, and many other things. Therefore, living in a way that will help you maintain good dopamine levels is wise.

And one of the biggest keys to doing this in the 21st century is to self-regulate our consumption of highly rewarding stimuli. Just being a bit more conscious in your everyday life can set you down a better path.

Something as simple as spending one hour reading instead of scrolling will improve your dopamine levels, and the accumulated knowledge will compound over time.

Changing something small today can mean your future life will end up significantly better.

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