It’s funny to hear people who don’t drink or use drugs say they aren’t dependent on chemicals for their well being. They turn their nose up in the air at addicts all the while chasing the same thing the junkie on the street is – the Dopamine rush. Granted, this sober individual has found ways to get their fix in a more sustainable and healthy way.
Let’s take a look at how dopamine plays into your motivation and its crucial role in maintaining a positive sense of well being.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical in both the body and brain and acts on a number of different pathways. When most people think of Dopamine they think of Dopamines role in the brain as a “feel good” chemical that’s released as part of a reward system or the result of using a drug. While this is an over simplification of this complicated chemical, this is only one aspect of Dopamines duties in the human body. Overall, Dopamine is a chemical messenger and relays signals to many elements of the body. In the blood vessels it fulfills a role as a vasodilater, widening the blood vessels for increased blood flow. In the kidneys it increases sodium excretion and urine output and in the pancreas it reduces the production of insulin.
I know, these are the boring aspects of Dopamine and we will only be concerning ourselves with Dopamines role in the brain.
Dopamine and motivation
How are Dopamine and motivation related? Well, you could say without a healthy flow of Dopamine surging through your brain you simply wouldn’t want to do anything. In fact, you would go completely catatonic and immobile without dopamine. I’m talking not even having enough energy to move a finger. Of course, Dopamine is intrinsically tied into your feelings of being motivated, getting stuff done, and feeling fulfilled and optimistic about the future.
Okay, so what do you do if you’re depressed, unmotivated, and lack energy? In other words, what do you do if you’re dopamine deficient? The good news is this – you’re NOT dopamine deficient. You just haven’t been using your brain in the right ways.
You see, dopamine is intrinsically involved with the way you use your brain. For example, when you imagine a lucrative goal your brain begins to produce Dopamine to help you complete this goal. It is your brains way of getting you to pay attention to something that has a potential for reward. This is the great revelation science has recently discovered about this neurotransmitter and this is great news to you. You need not even complete the goal but simply think about what you want and begin to take small steps towards it. I’m sure you’ve experienced the thrill of starting a new level in a video game and then completing it. That rush you get is Dopamine. Think about that same rush but for real life goals where the points actually matter!
The crushing disaster of low Dopamine
We know that low dopamine wreaks havoc on your ability to pay attention and many other cognitive processes. Parkinsons disease is a result of low dopamine and becomes a real threat as people get older in age. Could it be because older people are retired and no longer have a purpose or mission in life? The cause of Parkinsons is still unknown but I’ll tell you something I’ve noticed in many mentally healthy elderly people I know – They all stay active and maintain relationships as well have things to look forward to like activities. It seems to me there is a direct decline in dopamine once you stop looking into the future and setting goals. I know many elderly people with more energy than some of my friends. They have goals and zest for life while some of my friends don’t.
With this in mind, what kind of goals can you develop today? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want in a girlfriend or boyfriend? What car do you want to drive? Where do you want to live? How do you want to make money? What kind of lifestyle is aligned with your core values and purpose? Write these things down and focus on them daily.
Ultimately these questions force you to actively confront the things that turn you on and get you excited. This is no time to be a victim or think that you don’t deserve the BEST of what life has to offer. What turns you on? What smooths your wood? What floats your boat? What tickles your pickle? Make this a fun exercise as you imagine the possibilities of a future you never thought possible.
These questions prime the brain and activate dopamine. Revisit your goals everyday and take small steps to obtain them. If you’re extremely depressed and low energy I recommend starting with small goals. Things like cleaning your room, taking a shower, and cooking a meal can be huge stepping stones to blasting through your depression and living a healthy life.
Removing artificial Dopamine hits
We live in a very hedonistic society. Never before has pleasure been so available. Bored? Turn on Netflix or go on social media. Horny? Watch some porn and jerk off. Hungry? Go get some sugary sweets right down the street. Depressed? Go get yourself a couple 40s and pop a Xanax.
It’s never been easier to get a hit of dopamine from artificial and unhealthy sources. There’s a problem though. These dopamine hits can quickly lead you down a slippery slope of addiction. Before you know it normal and healthy activities like having sex or going for a hike pale in comparison to your hedonistic lifestyle. Furthermore, your ability to obtain something like a girlfriend is greatly reduced because you’ve fried your dopamine system and now you can’t focus or even socialize properly!
I’m not saying to go cold turkey on Netflix and everything else. I am saying to drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on these activies and opt for a more natural approach to increasing dopamine. Dopamine can be increased naturally and you CAN drag yourself out from whatever pit of depression you find yourself in.
Of course, I have a number of nootropics up my sleeve to help you increase dopamine as well. My hands down 2 favorites are Alpha-GPC and CDP-Choline. These are Cholinergic compounds with strong studies backing their ability to increase dopamine receptors in the brain along with boosting your overall cognitive functioning on multiple levels. You can read my review for Alpha-GPC here and my review for CDP-Choline here.
For immediate boosts in energy and dopamine I love to take L-Tyrosine with a strong cup of coffee. L-Tyrosine is a direct precursor to Dopamine in the brain and can give you a nice little boost for those days where you just. can’t. even.
Dopamine is so crucial to your health and it’s worth looking into optimizing Dopamine the best you can. With a change in habits and lifestyle anyone can begin to see the rays of sunshine through the clouds and become great friends with their new and robust dopamine pumping machine. Thanks for reading!