Dopamine Levels in Your Brain Are Directly Affected by Your Perception

Tellington TTouch Instructor Eugenie Chopin in South Africa sent me this article by Stephan Gardner from Collective Evolution about dopamine. “There are a lot of articles on the internet about dopamine and how it affects your mood, behavior, energy, and focus. What’s not commonly spoken about, however, is how dopamine is affected by your perception.” I especially enjoyed some of the tips, related by Stephan from Power of Positivity. Remembering to play music was one of my favorites and Tip 10 stuck a particular cord:

How you eat and how fulfilled you are, are directly correlated. If you’re actively enjoying the challenges of your life, you’re more likely to consume foods that serve your highest interests and health, because you see a reason to eat well. Controlling how you eat is less important than finding fulfillment in what you do. So the next time you find yourself craving that candy bar, ask yourself if there isn’t something else you could eat that could help you find fulfillment.

I have a particular attraction (addiction??) to Reeses peanut butter cups and I find a tangerine is a perfect substitute. This article prompts me to carry a few with me. When they are out of season, I plan to keep a stash of almonds in my purse.

dopamine

10 Ways You Can Increase Dopamine Levels In The Brain Without Medication

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.” – Psychology Today

1. Don’t Get Addicted (or, Increase the Rewards in Your Life)
“Many people get addicted to something because it gives them some kind of instant gratification.” Unfortunately addictive behaviors deplete dopamine levels in the long-term by keeping the reward circuitry in our brains in a constant state of overdrive. That’s when we are always craving a quick but, a sneaky puff, whatever it is we are addicted to, to maintain a steady state of dopamine. As Mr. Gardner says, this is not a sustainable state for dopamine production, which is not our job to manage. It can and should be done naturally. It is exactly this issue however that can cause addiction: addiction is often a behavior resulting from low dopamine levels. As an attempt to repair an already-existing problem, it has been described as self-medication.

We self medicate for fulfillment through the use of substances, objects, or events that relieve the inevitable pain and emptiness, but success is only temporary.

What this means is that low-dopamine is a response to a lifestyle which doesn’t offer much in terms of reward to the person living it. It may be a response to the environment you’re living in, the tight budget you’re working within, the relationship choices you’ve made or have been made for you, or a result of trauma where there was no perceived reward. It’s very easy to understand how dopamine levels may appear low when we consider all the potentials leading to less-rewarding lifestyles and life-experiences.

What’s necessary then is less of a ‘don’t get addicted’ approach and more of an ‘increase the rewards in your life’ style of applied advice. Fact is, you’ll constantly feel less fulfilled through low dopamine when you’re not (or are unable to) fill your day with things that inspire and reward you. Meaning, the most effective protection against addiction and greatest advantage to high-dopamine levels is a defense against low-rewarding activities and an offence working towards rewarding actions, activities, and ultimately, a lifestyle of fulfillment and achievement.

Also, because addiction is most often rooted in past traumatic experiences, where emotions create a fight or flight response that becomes rooted in your core emotions, it’s vitally important to seek proper and effective help in dissolving past trauma. Doing so can only help you perceive more rewarding experiences in your life, rather than filtering experiences through a ‘traumatized’ awareness.

2. Checklist Small Tasks (or, Chunk It Down)
“Dopamine increases when we are organized and finish tasks – regardless if the task is small or large. So, don’t allow your brain to worry about things that need to be done. Instead, write these tasks down and then check them off one at a time. It’s been shown that it’s more satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels when we physically check something off of our to-do list. Also, write down and check stuff off regardless if you can mentally remember the tasks.”

In reading the book Principles of Self-Management, I came across a brilliantly well-researched understanding of motivation when it comes to tasks. In short, if a task is greater than 25% of a change in a person’s routine, the person will be overwhelmed with feeling incapable of achieving it. This leads them to self-defeat and self-sabotage to avoid accomplishing the task. On the other side, if a task is less than 10% different than a person’s normal routine, they don’t do it because it won’t have enough meaning for them to do so. As such, it’s wise to make sure you write down goals and tasks that are in between this 10% to 25% range of new behaviors and actions, otherwise, you just won’t do it. READ MORE HERE.

3. Create Something (or, Manage Your Brain Waves)
“For us writers, painters, sculptors, poets, singers, dancers, and other artists, we can identify with this. When we’re in creative mode, we can become hyper-focused. As a result, we can enter a state called flow. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to achieve this state.” READ MORE HERE.

4. Exercise
“Not only does exercise help us relieve stress, achieve better physical health and make us more productive; it boosts our dopamine levels. More specifically, exercise increases multiple neurotransmitters – serotonin and endorphins, besides dopamine, receive a boost. Here’s something else cool: the exercise needn’t not be arduous. Simply taking a stroll or climbing some stairs will achieve a good dopamine jolt.” READ MORE HERE.

5. Get a Streak Going
“As with creating a checklist, getting a streak going is a great way to increase dopamine levels. For the purpose of this article, a streak is a visual reminder of how many days in a row you’ve achieved something.

Get a calendar specifically for this purpose: write down whatever goal you have and the days of the week or month when they are scheduled. For example, if you work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, mark these days on the calendar for the month. As you finish a workout, mark it off on the calendar. Keep a streak going, and you’ll keep the dopamine coming.”

6. Increase Tyrosine
“Of the chemicals that make up dopamine, none are more important than tyrosine. In fact, tyrosine is considered the building block of dopamine. Therefore, it is important that you get enough of this protein. There’s a large list of foods that increase Tyrosine, including: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Beef, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, Eggs, Green Tea, Watermelon, Yogurt.” READ MORE HERE.

7. Listen to Music
“Do you ever wonder why music makes you happy? I mean, we can be in the dumps one moment but once we put on our favorite jam, we’re swaying and shaking away…feeling pretty good about ourselves too! The reason for this is that listening to music increases dopamine levels. In fact, scientists say that listening to music has the same effect as eating our favorite foods or watching our favorite T.V. show. So, when you’re feeling down, throw on some of your favorite tunes and jam out!”

8. Meditate
“As with exercise, we are discovering more and more benefits to meditation. We are again adding to the list. As we discussed, the human brain is susceptible to a variety of addictions. One other addictive habit that we have is overthinking. In fact, some Buddhists have a phrase for this addiction: ‘monkey mind.’

Overthinking is not merely a distracting habit, it’s also a genuine compulsion that leaves us in a perplexing state, while also having a negative effect on our spiritual development. However, scientists are finally catching up to what Buddhists have known for thousands of years: meditation and mindfulness are essential to a healthy mind.”

Meditation can be a highly effective form of dopamine increase if done properly, as it can weed out the mental influences which may be causing your chemistry to be less than desired. With the intent of reaching a state of self-fulfillment, meditation clears out the mental clutter and replaces it with presence and fulfillment for just being alive. This is a state available to every human and can help assist our daily lives by increasing our awareness of what feels good for us and what we don’t resonate with.

9. Take Supplements
“While there are some great ways to increase dopamine levels, sometimes we’re facing a time crunch. Fortunately, there are natural supplements on the market that have been shown to increase dopamine levels. Here are a few:

Acetyl-l-tyrosine: Another building block of dopamine. A healthy dose of this makes it easier for the brain to produce dopamine.

Curcumin: An active ingredient that’s also common in curry spices and turmeric.

Ginkgo Biloba: A tremendously popular wonder supplement that’s also believed to boost dopamine levels and keep it circulating in the brain longer.

L-theanine: Increases multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Green tea is a terrific source for this.” (source)

10. Toxic Cleansing
“As miraculous as our bodies are, we do accumulate toxins and bacteria that is bad for us. Endotoxins are the kind that can cause our immune systems to get out of whack, and it also constrains the production of dopamine. Here are a couple tips for helping cleanse the gut of endotoxins: eat fermented food, get enough sleep, and resist the urge to indulge in fatty or sugary foods.”

Whenever you’re not fulfilled in your life, you run the risk of over-indulging in sugary and sweet foods in an attempt to temporarily fulfill yourself. However, if you find fulfillment through the challenge and support of your day, you’re more likely to eat for the tasks you’re doing instead of eating just to feel good.

So the next time you find yourself craving that candy bar, ask yourself if there isn’t something else you could eat that could help you find fulfillment. Also, notice what you are doing at the time you’re craving sugar and ask yourself if it’s really something you need to do, or can you delegate it to someone else so you can get back to things that inspire you. By focusing on what inspires and fulfills you, you’ll find yourself actively seeking to better your health without having to really focus on it.

© 2016, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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