4 Natural Boosters of Dopamine, the Elixir of our Life

 

 

We may not even realize it, but dopamine rules the roost when it comes to our sense of wellbeing. How is one neurotransmitter so crucial to the feeling of joy?

When you first wake up in the morning, and you smell that fresh pot of coffee brewing, you probably feel excitement. This anticipation is dopamine.

If you receive a raise at work, your sense of accomplishment will most likely be accompanied by a set of pleasant psychological and physical sensations – that’s dopamine.

When you enjoy your favorite music, laughing with friends, or experience an immense rush of adrenaline while playing a sport, dopamine is kicking in.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends signals between neurons and is a precursor of adrenaline. It plays an important role in a range of brain and body functions that are critical for your success, including motivation, memory, attention, focus, learning, creativity, and mood. When we experience the positive effects of dopamine, we feel well, excited and energized.

However, if we experience low levels of dopamine, we can become fatigued, apathetic and can suffer from addiction. poor memory, disrupted sleep, and even Parkinson’s disease.

 

What is the link between dopamine and addiction?

In the 1950s, scientists designed an experiment where they placed electrodes along the dopamine pathway in the brain of rats. When the rats entered into a particular corner of their cages, they received an electric shock. The discomfort of the shock therapy led scientists to believe that the rats would avoid entering the area where the shock occurred – but just the opposite happened.

Rather than avoiding the shock, the rats craved the dopamine so severely that they continued going back to experience the shock up to 700 times in one hour.

This compulsive behavior can be seen in people, too. Take substance abuse or gambling for example. Doing anything in excess may not feel good after the fact, but the dopamine rush can be so intense that a person will crave for more.

Quick dopamine fixes are tempting and appear everywhere in our modern world. Some examples for sources of a dopamine rush include caffeine, alcohol, video games, social media addiction, impulsive eating, mindless working or compulsive shopping.

To achieve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, we should boost our dopamine in healthy and balanced ways that nourish our sense of self-worth and reinforce our connections with others.

 

Genuine Gratitude

Have you ever felt that warm tingling sensation of love and compassion take over when you feel gratitude for someone or something happening in your life?

Being grateful for all of the blessings you have in your life is a simple, inexpensive and practical way to enhance your dopamine levels. It also works to keep your life in perspective when times get tough.

One way to easily maintain a momentum of appreciation is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Remember, when difficult storms arrive, and you have troubles finding things to appreciate, it’s okay to be grateful for simple pleasures like a snuggle with a pet or a smile from a stranger.

 

Everyday Mindfulness

Focusing on the present moment and practicing self-reflection offer us enormous amounts of benefits. When we pay attention to the environment, calm our thoughts and center ourselves, we experience a relaxed state-of-mind, so that we can fully relax and recharge.

Not only does the practice of mindful framing and mindfulness help us to let go of stress, but studies have shown the potential to increase the release of dopamine.

It can be tempting to reach for a junkie TV show to distract yourself from daily problems instead of retreating into pondering and reflecting about our ideas and experiences. In the long run, embracing a ritual of self-reflection will increase your dopamine levels in a positive, more profound way.

 

Regular Exercise

There’s no need to sign yourself up for a spin class that you are going to dread if spinning isn’t your thing. But finding an outlet to exercise that you genuinely enjoy can increase your dopamine and boost your physical wellbeing.

Whether you take up martial arts, dance or play fetch with your dog, your mind and body will thank you. Dopamine is released when you get your heart pumping.

For an extra rush of healthy dopamine, combine your activity with reaching a goal (such as increasing steadily you daily steps).

Exercise brings many other fantastic side effects into your life. Perhaps you lose a couple of pounds, look healthier and meet new like-minded friends during your activity.

 

Healthy Eating

White sugar and fast food can be highly tempting if you desire a surge in energy. But the mood-elevating spike caused by these foods is short-lived and often comes with an energy crash.

Our earth is abundant with fresh fruits, veggies and fiber for us to indulge in daily. And did you know that a healthy gut seems to be directly related to balanced dopamine levels?

Some foods that can support your dopamine levels are apples, bananas, beets, chicken, eggs and cheese. So start your day with a delicious cheesy omelet or fresh fruit salad to elevate your mood early on.

 

Life is dynamic, a steady source of experiences and ideas, and dopamine mobilizes your brain and body to be motivated, creative and achieve peak performance. Don’t waste this precious elixir by disrupting the fine-tuned alchemy of neurotransmitters and hormones. Be gentle with yourself and let the natural processes in your organism take over without ‘artificial sweeteners.’

 

Stress-free Leaders Do 5 Things Every Day

Have you ever seen yourself as a leader, the boss of your life? Wouldn’t be great to coast stress-free through your personal, family and work responsibilities and goals?

Those who lead successfully their life and businesses rarely display stress despite everyday challenges and overwhelming agendas.

To become a truly effective leader with the right mindset, learn and practice how to control your time, actions and spaces.

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4 Infallible Ways to Handle Anxiety at Work

Have you ever spent a day feeling completely scared at work, but you’re not sure why?

We all experience anxiety at work from time to time, but a heightened sense of fear that occurs daily and on an ongoing basis can have a highly uncomfortable impact in the workplace.

Linda Geddes, explains in New Scientist Magazinetwo different cases of anxiety:

The first case is about a man who withdrew from answering phone calls at work. He feared that his words would be incoherent, and he might mess up his sentences. This type of anxiety is driven by true insecurity and lack of practice speaking on the phone.

In the second case, a woman had such intense fear that she felt agitated and lightheaded every morning right after waking up. Her anxiety had her thoughts swinging in a pendulum between two choices: What accidents could happen while traveling to work? And, what horrible unplanned consequences might happen if she stayed at home? There is no rationale for these beliefs, there is an underlying anxiety that may require a therapeutic intervention.

Sound familiar? While you may not experience anxiety to the degree described in these examples, anxiety isn’t fun and can massively impact your work life.

Is anxiety always bad?

Believe it or not, anxiety does serve a purpose. In reasonable amounts, feeling the sensation of anxiety can alert you to danger and will keep you vigilant and aware, more productive at work.

But if you find that feeling anxiety influences and interferes with your day-to-day life, then you may be experiencing too much anxiety and should seek the help of a trusted medical professional, explains Nick Grey, Clinical Psychologist at King’s College in London.

What causes anxiety?

Maladaptive Beliefs. According to Grey, maladaptive beliefs can cause anxiety. They are beliefs that work against you and are not accurate representations of how a situation will pan out. For instance, let’s say you take a ride on a roller coaster; you may fear that your heart’s increased rate will cause a heart attack.

While a heart attack is a possibility for someone with a heart condition, for most, believing that you will have a heart attack is a maladaptive belief that hinders your ability to appreciate the moment.

Chronic Worrying. Maladaptive beliefs can spiral into chronic worrying about various events or activities for about six months, explains Grey. Two chronic worry examples caused by maladaptive beliefs might look something like:

  • Feeling you are responsible for everyone around you, all your colleagues.
  • Feeling that your responsibilities at work matter more than your health and emotional wellbeing.

With all of this in mind, what causes the symptoms of anxiety?

When severe unease takes over, you can feel as though there is no way out. And this debilitating fear is linked to the amygdala, an anatomical part of our brain.

Our amygdala has two main roles:

  • Processes emotions
  • Triggers the release of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for our fight-flight-or-freeze responses

Imagine you are in a meeting and your boss opens the door and asks you to step out. Most people will feel some response in this situation. You could feel intrigued waiting for unforeseen news, or the sight of your boss could trigger a powerful fear.

You might be tempted to leave the meeting and confront your boss (fight). Or stay seated and tell your boss to wait until the meeting is over (freeze).

In either case, your body is receiving stimuli and signals from a place of stress.

Studies suggest that those with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, store fearful memories within the amygdala and can bring an exaggerated response to stimuli.

However, for a person who functions in an usual fashion, when fear arises, he or she can temper a learned response with new memories, explains Geddes.

How can you tackle anxiety?

Exercise. It turns out that going for a walk, biking, doing yoga, or any other physical activity that you enjoy can be extremely helpful in battling anxiety.

Have you ever felt emotionally ‘off’ and gone for a long walk through your favorite park?  You are sure to experience the calming effects from being in nature, breathing more deeply, and a general lift in mood.

When you exercise, the experience releases mood-boosting endorphins that help you feel happier. Concentrating on a physical activity removes your focus from fear and allows your mind to zero in on the task at hand.

Remember, you don’t need to start a new or expensive sport. Yes, surfing or joining a posh gym can help, but start with something that feels approachable and affordable.

Diet. study led by Phil Burnet (at the University of Oxford) found that increasing fiber intake encouraged the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which helped people pay increased attention to positive messages on computers (and less to negative ones).

When the volunteers of the study woke in the morning, they had lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their blood.

The study showed that the volunteers experienced seemingly small, but significant effects on the underlying psychological conditions that contributed to anxiety, notes Burnet.

Between full-time jobs, maintaining various relationships, and balancing health, modern life has us busier than ever.

Therapies. Certain medications given to a person with severe anxiety (and under the care of a professional) can reduce the perceived threats in a person’s experiences.

Benzodiazepines, for example, includes medications such as Valium. These treatments can filter out unthreatening stimuli. However, it’s worth noting that benzodiazepines can be highly addictive and should be given and observed under the care of a doctor.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tends to be the golden go-to standard in anxiety treatment because its focus is to address the hindrance caused by maladaptive beliefs.

Once someone’s maladaptive beliefs are determined, CBT seeks to challenge them so that fears can be overcome.

Self reflection. Spending a few minutes each day reviewing the triggers of your anxiety and focusing on the present moment through mindfulness or mindful framing, will serve several purposes:

  • Develop a framework to assess unexpected experiences and thoughts
  • Develop natural routines and habits that will impact your mental wellbeing
  • Develop emotional intelligence and empathy towards yourself and others
  • Develop a comprehensive approach towards physical wellbeing

If you suffer from anxiety, be brave and tackle your anxiety head on, seek help inside and outside. Your mind has the key to a top-notch hospital and fully stocked pharmacy with safe and efficacious solutions. Anxiety can be transformed into vital energy.