We all take a cocktail of chemicals which impact our behaviour, even those of us who don’t smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine. These chemicals which influence our mood, energy and ability are produced within our body! I’m thinking of substances like dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and around 100 other neurotransmitters and hormones discovered so far.
Let’s take a look at dopamine as this is known to impact motivation, drive and focus. It is often regarded as the pleasure chemical. When it is released into our brains we feel good, our ability to concentrate improves and we tend to get more done. Conversely, low levels of dopamine lead to a lack of motivation, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss and even addictive behaviour as the sufferer looks for alternative pleasure sources such as comfort food, alcohol or sex.
Many argue that if we could increase our natural dopamine level we would be happier and perform better. A number of studies suggest the following tactics to raise dopamine levels:
1. Be creative – painting a picture or making something creates a sense of achievement and helps to divert our thinking.
2. Listen to music – a short burst of uplifting music can shift our state, movie directors use this technique throughout their films.
3. Exercise – just getting out of your chair more frequently can make a difference, a 40 minute walk three times a week is recommended.
4. Eat tyrosine – it sounds scary but can be found in almonds, turmeric, bananas, dark chocolate and green tea.
5. Meditate – most adults are guilty of ‘over thinking’ give your brain some space each day to reboot.
6. Note nature – even in cities there is an abundance of ever changing nature. Take an interest in buds becoming leaves, then changing colour, birds singing and even changing weather and light. This reminds us that we are part of something bigger that is growing and developing.
7. Tick lists – a repeated sense of accomplishment is a tremendous source of happiness. Make to do lists that you’ll be able to tick off several times in a day, these will create far more dopamine than one big win.