mix of fruit, vegetables, nuts and salmon
mix of fruit, vegetables, nuts and salmon

How to increase the natural production of dopamine

Scientists have discovered that shortages in specific neurotransmitters can be a key contributor to many common disorders, including anxiety, mood disorders, emotional regulation and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Need to know

Scientists have discovered that shortages in specific neurotransmitters can be a key contributor to many common disorders, including anxiety, mood disorders, emotional regulation and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Why is it important

Low levels of dopamine have been closely linked to lack of motivation and decreased enthusiasm. With normal levels of dopamine, your child is able to feel pleasure with a link to reward, which is essential in motivating them to repeat a behaviour. 

Tips and strategies

1. Eat well to increase dopamine production. Dopamine is produced from amino acids, which can be found in protein-rich foods. While we can’t get dopamine from food itself, by eating foods rich in particular amino acids, such as tyrosine and phenylalanine, we can help increase dopamine production in our bodies. Food that are thought to be effective at boosting dopamine levels include:

  • dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • lean, unprocessed meats such as beef, chicken and turkey
  • omega-3 rich fish such as salmon 
  • eggs
  • fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas
  • nuts such as almonds and walnuts
  • dark chocolate.

2. Dance in your living room. Exercise can improve how we feel and may boost dopamine levels. Why not combine music and exercise and have a fun dance party at home! While the benefits of exercise are well documented, several studies have found that listening to music is also beneficial, increasing activity in the reward and pleasure areas of the brain.

3. Prioritise sleep. Lack of sleep can result in drowsiness, reduced concentration and poor coordination as well as reduce dopamine sensitivity in the brain. Check the recommended sleep for your child’s age to see if they are getting enough rest. This might be up to 12 hours per night for school-aged kids.

4. Sunshine is key. Sunlight exposure can increase our levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Conversely, receiving too little sunlight exposure can lead to reduced dopamine levels. Encourage your whole family to get out in the sunshine, but be sure to use sunscreen and wear a hat.

References

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