Psst, hey you. Want some dope? What do you mean you don’t do drugs? Hey hold on, don’t call the cops on me!
Okay, I see the confusion. I actually meant dopamine. Isn’t dope short for dopamine? No? Huh, you learn something new everyday.
Increase Dopamine = More Productivity
What’s dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that our brain produces to nudge us into doing stuff. It’s the main reason why we can focus and achieve great things even if the payout isn’t immediate or obvious.
And don’t worry, you can’t even take dopamine since it’s something your brain produces for itself. But what you can do is increase dopamine in your system to help you stay focused, productive and motivated. If you want to be productive and get things done, here’s a few ways to boost your dopamine levels.
1. DISCOVER NEW THINGS
Dopamine production is actually triggered when we find something new and exciting in front of us. Our ancestors would experience it when discovering new herds to hunt or new plants to harvest. Unless you’re a naturalist, it’s probably going to be hard to do those things. But we do have the internet.
The internet is a treasure trove for discovering new music to new videos. A simple dopamine booster is browsing Pinterest or even Amazon for new products and items. A word of caution: it will get addictive so make sure to limit your time on sites like these.
2. LIST DOWN YOUR SMALL TASKS
Dopamine is also released after you finish something, whether it’s a big job or a small task. So it follows that To get more hits, break down those big jobs into smaller ones.
And as I said above, you need to list down those tasks. It’s not that I don’t trust you to remember your todos, it’s just that it’s much more satisfying, dopamine-wise, to check stuff off a list physically. Nothing is more satisfying than ticking off something as done.
3. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Studies have shown that if you listen to music you really enjoy, the brain releases dopamine as a response. Even the anticipation of hearing that music also increases dopamine levels, which is probably why you see all these crazy lines in front of music stores.
4. INCREASE YOUR TYROSINE
Tyrosine is the building block of dopamine, so make sure that you have enough of this protein in you. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to find this. Here are some common foods that have loads of tyrosine:
I’m pretty sure you have enough of these in your diet, and some of these are foods you actually enjoy.
5. REDUCE YOUR LIPOPOLYSACCHARIDES
Lipolypo, lipopopoly, lipoly-what again? It’s a hard word to pronounce (and write for that matter) but that’s a good thing because you want to avoid it. These are also called endotoxins and yes, it is indeed a toxin. Basically, if you have too much of these, your immune system will go haywire. More importantly, it inhibits the production of dopamine.
The best way to combat this is by having more good bacteria than bad in your gut. How do you do that?
Eat lots of probiotic foods, mostly fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi.
Get enough sleep so your gut can keep up with you.
Don’t overindulge in fatty and sugary foods. The name says that it’s built from lipids and polysaccharides, so less of those means less endotoxins.
6. EXERCISE OFTEN
I’ve already written a lot about how exercise helps you destress and makes you super-productive. It’s because physical activity is something your body craves (even if your conscious brain hates it sometimes). To make it fun for you, your brain actually releases fun chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine.
The great thing is even non-strenuous exercise can help increase dopamine levels. Try taking the dog out for a walk, climbing some stairs, or busting out the Wii Fit.
7. ESTABLISH A STREAK
A streak is just a visual reminder of how many consecutive times you achieved something. In games, it’s often used to track wins but you can also use it in everyday activities for the added dopamine boost.
The easiest way to do this is to take a calendar and put an X in the box everyday you do something, like cleaning your desk or eating a healthy lunch. Soon enough, you’ll have a neat row of X’s there to show off as your streak.
Having a streak increases dopamine production in the same way completing a task does. While you haven’t completed the entire goal, just knowing that you’re going in the right direction makes your brain give you enough of a dopamine burst to keep on going.
8. TAKE DOPAMINE ENHANCING SUPPLEMENTS
While you can’t pump your brain with dopamine, at least not until we have home brain injection kits, you can take supplements that encourage your brain to produce more dopamine. Here’s some of them:
Curcumin, the active ingredient in our favorite curry spice turmeric, helps increase levels of dopamine.
Ginkgo Biloba is a popular wonder drug and though it’s not proven, it might help increase dopamine levels by making it stay in your brain longer.
L-theanine increases neurotransmitter production in your brain, one of which is dopamine. Green tea has lots of this, though it can also be taken as a theanine supplement.
Acetyl-l-tyrosine is a production-ready version of tyrosine which will make it easier for your brain to create dopamine.
9. MAKE STUFF
Have you noticed that when you’re deep into a creative work, you enter a state of hyper-focus where you feel you can do anything? That state is called flow and it’s something that dopamine helps you achieve.
Increasing dopamine can be as simple as taking up a creative hobby like photography, crafting, auto repair or drawing.
Sometimes the best way to do something is by doing nothing. Specifically, you do nothing physically but in your mind you’re trying to sort out your thoughts. Whether you meditate, pray or do simple self-reflection, all these activities are linked to increased dopamine levels.
Dopamine is an addictive chemical but in a good way. It’s helps motivate you in doing things you need to do, even if you don’t want to do them. And have you noticed something? Most of the things I mentioned above are actually activities that also make you more productive, since that’s essentially what dopamine does.