Passion, pleasure, and the dopamine fix
Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter that provides the spark for that happy high we often experience during the best times of our lives. In essence, it’s the compound that helps us be human.
This chemical messenger in the brain triggers our drive for passion, pleasure, productivity, and much more. Dopamine is one part of a complex system of natural chemicals that also includes endorphins, endocannabinoids and oxytocin, as well as a state of consciousness that produces alpha waves. All are stimulated during feel-good experiences like exercise, music, an exciting movie or book, sex, and spending time with loved ones. Dopamine also plays an important role in regulating free radicals and antioxidants during exercise.
Dopamine is key to the brain’s healthy reward system, making us feel good about ourselves, responding to and seeking the pleasures of life, encouraging passion, mental drive and focus through regulation of emotions, memory and even better bodily movement.
Many dopamine-sparked activities are positive and creative, while others may be addictive and negative. For example, sugar and junk food can stimulate the dopamine system and can fuel the addiction cycle. So can over-using electronic devices, social media and video games.
Whatever the reward — positive or negative — just anticipating it can raise dopamine levels significantly. This may range from the positive satisfaction when forming an idea for writing, painting or creating music, to the sound of a slot machine for the gambler or even the seemingly benign buzz of our smart phones. Some of these more addictive stimulants can direct our attention too far from its natural alpha state, creative focus and flow, potentially impairing brain function, including decreased well-being, according to a recent study.
Have you had your dopamine fix today?
Poor dopamine function can wreck our lives. Two or more of the following symptoms may indicate a higher risk:
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Reduced focus/concentration
- Lack of passion
- Low sex drive
- Poor sleep
- Negative addiction
- Poor memory
- Brain injury
Good lifestyle and nutritional habits help us use dopamine more wisely.
So to get the most out of your next creative session, passionate adventure, or even just a new and exciting day, be sure to get your dopamine fix!
Below are some do’s and don’ts for better dopamine regulation.
- Meat, eggs, dairy, avocado, almond, cacao, coffee, tea, turmeric (tyrosine foods).
- Balanced physical activity, especially easy exercise like walking.
- Good gut health. Fermented foods like dairy, sauerkraut, etc.
- Fish oil (EPA-DHA).
- Sunshine and vitamin D.
- Touching, such as getting a foot or back rub, Swedish massage, or petting your pet.
- Cold stimulation: quick cold tub or shower following regular bathing.
- 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep.
- Music: new and old; listen, watch, play.
- Follow your passion.
- Junk food (processed flour & sugar).
- Too much/too little physical activity.
- Hormone imbalance.
- Excess body fat.
- Unnecessary medication.