by: Althea Burke
We're only three months into the new year, so I want to talk about Dopamine because of its link to motivation. Dopamine is such a buzzword in mainstream culture as of late mostly because of its association with Happy Psychology, positive thinking and the self-help craze. It's responsible for so many important roles in the body, for example: attention, learning, mood, sleep, movement and anticipatory pleasure.
A study mapped the brain of "go-getters" and "slackers" finding that the latter group had high levels of Dopamine in an area of the brain responsible for motivation and reward while the former group had higher levels of Dopamine in an area of the brain involved in emotion and risk perception. All that to say this: Dopamine has a lot to with cost/benefit analyses and motivation.
My mind jumped to something naughty. Sex. I'm a newlywed. What's your excuse for thinking about it? I think that "gettin' you some" is one of most natural ways to get Dopamine flowing and to help you stay motivated.
Trending on IG in last year was the #forthedchallenge. The challenge featured women rapping a couple bars about what they would do for some above average coitus.
I thought it was ri-dick-cu-lous and disgusting, but it's really a great contemporary example of the link between Dopamine and motivation. Some of these women spit rhymes about stalker-like behavior, moving mountains and the superhuman things they would do “for the D.” From a neuroscience perspective, that's Dopamine doing what it does!
People are motivated to move toward something good like food, sex and exercise yet get away from something painful like an electrical shock or "feeling like a failure."
I want to talk about sex some more. It's kind of fun. Being deficient in Dopamine does result in low libido, inability to feel pleasure, lack of motivation and mood swings to name a few symptoms. It does seem like a conundrum doesn't it? Dopamine deficiency decreasing sex drive, but having sex releasing Dopamine. *ugh* Thankfully there are healthy and natural ways to boost Dopamine at work and in the kitchen. Since we spend so much time at work and eating, you should be good to go in no time. You’re welcome in advance.
Goal setting. Set small achievable goals. Checking them off boosts Dopamine.
Positive feedback. It's a small group of us who have bosses that are "hearty in their approbation and lavish in their praise." Seek out allies at work and friends who can pat you on your back for a job well done. It feels good and, gives you a shot of Dopamine.
Tie up loose ends. Take on less, so that you can tie up all loose ends by the end of the day. Doing what you said you were going to do will boost Dopamine.
Be still. Celebrate and bask in the glory of accomplishing a goal no matter how big or small the challenge was to complete. These small, free celebrations get Dopamine flowing.
Stick with it. Continue to do things that require focus and effort.
What to eat
Foods that increase dopamine or its precursor, L-Tyrosine include:
Almonds and peanuts
Green Leafy Vegetables
Fava or Lima beans
Think: rice and beans, oatmeal and bananas, yogurt and watermelon, steak and sauerkraut, apples with almonds or green smoothie with wheat germ.
Consider this your call to action to take some time to tune into your body, evaluate changes in mood and behaviour and to make the dietary and lifestyle changes required to help you push through to accomplish the things you wanted to at the start of this year. And also, if you’re going to chase the D, I pray the man attached to it treats you like the precious gift you are.