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Published on April 19, 2021

6 Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine And Boost Mental Energy

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6 Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine And Boost Mental Energy

Why is dopamine important and how do you increase dopamine production in your body?

Dopamine is a brain chemical your body uses to influence your mood and feelings of reward, higher function, and motivation. As a result, you will find that the natural ways to increase dopamine in your body can also be used to help you work more efficiently and productively. It can also help you maintain your focus and determination when things become difficult and your willpower falters.

In addition, you will find in this list ways to increase dopamine—ways to increase your overall mental and physical health. Since your dopamine levels are tied to your body’s overall health in many ways, it is impossible to separate your motivation and focus from your body’s overall health and ability to achieve your goals.

1. Get Moving

Studies show exercise is a great way to naturally increase dopamine levels. In addition to releasing dopamine, exercise is shown to improve mood and boost endorphin levels.

The frequency and intensity of the exercise needed to increase dopamine levels are not certain. Most people recommend making exercise a regular part of your daily activities. On some days, you may go to the gym or on a light jog. On other days, you could go on a short walk or attend a yoga class. You don’t necessarily need to overexert yourself to feel the benefits.

If your career does not lend itself to exercise, look for ways to incorporate movement each day. You could take the stairs instead of the elevator. Consider adding steps to your day by parking in the back of the parking lot instead of in the front. If you can spare ten minutes out of your busy day, take a walk around your neighborhood.

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2. Get Some Fresh Air

There is something relaxing about being outside. The benefits are plentiful because being outside allows you to get fresh air, sunlight, and a chance to meditate (more on this later). Countless studies have shown that nature has a positive impact on mental health.[1] Taking a break from the daily grind and appreciating nature will reduce your negative emotions and improve your mood.

Within a few minutes of being outside, your production of the cortisol stress hormones will decrease. At the same time, your production of endorphins and dopamine will increase.[2] Not to mention, it is recommended that you spend 10 to 30 minutes outside each day for vitamin D.

3. Become One With Yourself

Meditation is the process of clearing your mind and allowing your thoughts to grow without judgment. There are so many forms of meditation that you can meditate while standing, sitting, or even walking.

Studies show a 65% increase in dopamine from participants who meditated for one hour.[3] The 65% increase was in comparison to simply sitting quietly. It is important to recognize that while there are many forms of meditation, sitting quietly is not meditating.

Meditation involves the focus and control of thoughts. If you are practicing a form of concentration meditation, which is continually focusing on one particular item around you, it may become difficult as your eyes begin to lose focus. But you must refocus them to the best of your abilities.

If you are practicing a form of mindfulness meditation, you are being present in the moment. The basic premise is that you focus on your five senses because your senses are always in the present. For example, you can focus on the birds you hear chirping, the leaves you see blowing or the way the carpet feels under your feet.

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Studies have shown meditation has benefits against a range of conditions both physical and mental, including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety.[4] By addressing these conditions, it opens the door for you to increase dopamine levels.

The process of meditation tends to help you appreciate life. This level of gratitude is also going to help you naturally increase dopamine production.

4. Have Fun With Music

Listening to music you enjoy is also shown to naturally increase dopamine in your body.[5] Like most of the solutions you have read about in this article, dopamine is tied to habits that are good for you and put you in a good mood.

Much of the research surrounding music and its ability to increase dopamine levels is tied to classical music. This does not necessarily mean that music with lyrics does not increase dopamine. But it does mean if you want to be extra certain about whether you are stimulating your dopamine levels, then listening to instrumental music is best.[6]

If you don’t find yourself naturally listening to music, you can find ways to incorporate music while performing other activities. As someone who rarely listens to music while driving, I can understand the dilemma. My car is usually playing audiobooks when I am driving without my children. That is why playing instrumental music while writing, researching, or working fits best into my schedule.

You could listen to music while walking or play music when you are meditating. The goal is not for you to completely change your day around but to find simple ways to naturally increase dopamine.

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5. Enjoy Eating the Two P’s

Your body creates dopamine with the amino acids in your body. These amino acids are found in foods like eggs, soy, beef, dairy, and legumes. Research shows that eating foods rich in protein can increase the amount of dopamine your body produces. Conversely, if you have a diet that does not include protein, you can exhaust your dopamine supply completely.[7]

In addition to more protein, you want to consume more probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you. While that may not sound appetizing, probiotics are really good for your digestive system and you will find them in supplements and foods like yogurt. Your body is full of good and bad bacteria, so you want to find ways to add more helpful bacteria when you can.

6. Rest After a Good Day’s Work

When it comes to good health, good sleep health is the cornerstone of overall health. It is recommended that healthy adults get approximately 8 hours of sleep each night. When you have the proper amount of rest, you wake up sharp and your mind is alert and focused.

Studies show when you first wake up after a good night of sleep, your dopamine levels are at their highest. Then, as the day goes on, your coordination and concentration begin to fade—along with your dopamine levels.[8] Therefore, it should be no surprise that getting the proper amount of sleep is a great way to naturally increase dopamine levels.

When you are working towards something, it can be tempting to compromise on your sleep. You feel you only have so many hours in the day and you need those extra hours. Heck, you may go as far as to feel those are your most productive hours.

The truth is, they could be. If you are working on starting a business and you have a daytime job or a young family, then your best time is probably in the evening. Just know you are sacrificing your mental efficiency and dopamine when you don’t consistently get 8 hours of sleep, and you shouldn’t plan to do so for long periods of time.

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Final Thoughts

There are a variety of ways to increase dopamine levels. Throughout this article, you have likely noticed your dopamine levels are tied to your overall health.

As you do things to improve your overall health, your dopamine levels increase. Sleeping, healthy eating, and spending time being active are all things that are good for you.

In addition to the many benefits that each provides, they can also help boost your dopamine levels. In other words, you feel better as you get better. Dopamine is involved in your reward, motivation, memory, and concentration functions. These functions are going to improve or decline based on how well you treat your body.

More Tips on How to Boost Mental Energy

Featured photo credit: Adam Winger via unsplash.com

Reference

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Last Updated on December 2, 2021

10 Reasons Why You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions)

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10 Reasons Why You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions)

What were you doing when this article caught your eye? Chances are, you were having trouble concentrating on another project.

Even before COVID-19, balancing your work, family, and social life made concentrating a challenge. These days, it can seem downright impossible.

Don’t let a little bad news—or good fun—break your focus. Here is a simple guide and tips to help you concentrate better.

Signs of Trouble Concentrating

Signs and symptoms of not concentrating vary from person to person. However, what we can experience are:

  • Have a struggling working memory. You don’t know what occurred not that long ago;
  • Trouble sitting still;
  • Not being able to think clearly;
  • You frequently lose things or can’t remember where things were placed;
  • Have an inability to make decisions or perform complicated tasks;
  • Unable to focus
  • Lacking physical or mental energy
  • Constantly and consistently making mistakes even if you don’t mean to.

When it comes to difficulty concentrating, you may notice these symptoms occur at various points for people. Some people need to be in certain settings for these symptoms to happen. For others, it can be during a certain time of day.

10 Most Common Causes of Trouble Concentrating

Here’re 12 most common reasons why you have trouble concentration, and the fixes for each of them.

1. Digital Distractions

Right now, do a little experiment. Pull up your browser history, hit Ctrl+H, and see where you’ve been all day. Frightening, right?

You jumped in and out of email. You bounced from social media to digital publication and back again. Oh, and look at those half-dozen retail sites you scrolled through looking for a new pair of shoes.

Then, there’s your smartphone. Every few seconds, you get a new notification from Twitter, Instagram, or CNN. Each time, your eyes dart from your computer screen to your phone. You’d hate to miss something, right?

The Fix: Schedule Your Day

While a little flexibility is important, you should set aside a period of time for tasks you know you’ll need to complete.

Schedule time to:

  • Read and respond to work emails
  • Make headway on your top two or three work projects
  • Engage in professional development
  • Do household chores
  • Help the kids with homework
  • Run that Zoom tutorial with your partner again

Leave short gaps in between as buffer times in case something goes over the intended time. Everyone needs to unwind with a good distraction now and again.

The key is controlling when you do so, rather than letting it control you.

2. Daydreams and Memories

Remember that little café where your spouse proposed to you 15 years ago? Wouldn’t your dining room look great with the same little tables and subway tile on the floor?

Everyone loses themselves in daydreams and memories sometimes. Your mind wanders to the future or the past because those places are more pleasant than what you’re handling at that time. This causes you to have trouble concentrating on what you need to focus on.

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Nonetheless, you have a deadline to meet, so how can you keep yourself focused when you have trouble concentrating?

The Fix: Stay in the Present

Daydreaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Imagination can provide a spark of creative genius or visualization of what you want in life. You just need to do it when it makes sense, not when you should be focusing on work.

Stay in the present by keeping your daily to-do list on your desk. When your mind starts to drift, pull yourself back to what’s right in front of you. Ground yourself by focusing on something real, like your breath, before turning your attention back to the task at hand.

With that said, make time to let your mind wander on occasion. Allow yourself the luxury of dreaming when it’s not pulling you away from something you need to get done.

3. Headaches

While you might be able to power through mild ones, a splitting migraine can destroy any hope you have of concentrating for a period of time.

Headaches and migraines are caused by a wide range of issues, including stress, sleep deprivation, diet, eyestrain, and medications[1]. Throw a global pandemic on top, and it’s no wonder your head is pounding.

The Fix: Use Your Head

Like that bottle of hand sanitizer, keep your headache and migraine medications on hand at all times. If getting to the pharmacy is a challenge these days, migraine services like Nurx can diagnose you and deliver medication to your door.

If your headache isn’t severe, try a medication-free approach. Some people find relief simply from drinking water, applying a cold compress, or inhaling essential oils.

4. Racing Thoughts

When is that project due? I’ve got to get something for Jane’s baby shower. I’m almost out of shampoo. I need those audit figures. What do I make for dinner tonight?

Does that scenario sound familiar? When you get busy, you suddenly remember five other items that you need to do or think about.

All of this can be so distracting that you’re unable to keep up and have difficulty concentrating.

The Fix: Meditate and Be Mindful

If you’re like most people, your mind is lost in thought 47% of the time, causing concentration problems. [2]

Meditation is a great way to clear the clutter, restore cognitive functioning, and focus on the present.

The good news is that meditating is easy.

Simply sit somewhere comfortable, take off your shoes, and set a timer for ten minutes. Then, just focus on your breathing.

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Don’t try to control it; simply notice your inhales and exhales, and let thoughts pass unjudged.

Mindfulness meditation, described above, is just one type. Mantra and movement meditations are also popular. Figure out what works for you, and keep those racing thoughts at bay.

5. Unresolved Issues and Arguments

Life is messy, and if you’re like me, one of the greatest concentration killers is unresolved disputes and arguments.

Maybe you argued with your partner last night. Perhaps you both went to bed angry, and it’s been bothering you all morning.

Or maybe you’re fed up with a co-worker who always talks louder than is necessary because they want everyone to hear about their latest date.

Your anger and annoyance might be well placed, but it doesn’t help to linger on these things. Your brain cells are better used for something else.

The Fix: Get Some Closure

Instead of leaving an argument up in the air, try to solve it. Stick to the point, stay calm, listen, and bring the disagreement to some sort of resolution.

If a co-worker does something to irritate you enough to interfere with your ability to concentrate, pull them aside and tell them. Be rational—not angry—and try to understand what might motivate their actions.

Otherwise, nothing is going to change, including the fact that you’re having difficulty concentrating.

6. Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation isn’t just a health issue. It also hinders your ability to concentrate during waking hours.

There are medical reasons for poor sleep too. Diabetes, sleep apnea, respiratory issues, cardiovascular disease, generalized anxiety disorder and neurological disorders.

For those, you need to seek medical advice and treatment.

But for most people, poor sleep is the result of mental health struggles and anxiety about all kinds of things. Finances, kids, parents, or maybe that job change you’ve been considering.

You have a lot on your mind, and this causes you to have trouble concentrating.

The Fix: Have Some Sweet Dreams

Losing as few as 16 minutes of sleep can throw you off your game the next day. Getting to sleep might be as easy as changing your mattress or your pillow, but the bigger culprit is your routine. Key steps include to help restore cognitive functioning are:

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  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
  • Control your exposure to light at night, including smartphones and computer screens. Use that time to confront those weighty things on your mind by making a list of concerns or updating your to-do list.
  • Avoid overeating. Large meals close to bed can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine. Both substances interrupt your natural sleep cycle.
  • When you do lie down, turn off the lights and close your eyes. Take some deep breaths, and drift into dreamland.

7. Lack of Exercise

Exercise lands at the bottom of the to-do list for many people. When they run out of time, they skip it. But they pay the price later in the form of their concentration.

Even moderate, regular physical activity benefits your physical health, improves your sleep, lessens anxiety, and increases mental acuity.

If you aren’t making time for exercise during the day, you’re hurting your ability to stay focused.

The Fix: Get Moving

Not everyone is an athlete, and not everyone wants to work out under the scrutiny of their fellow gym-goers. And that’s okay.

At the end of the day, what matters is sustainability.

Rather than launch into that soon-to-fail New Year’s resolution approach to exercise, start with literal small steps, like walking the dog or taking the stairs.

If it only takes you five minutes to eat that protein bar at your desk, use the rest of your lunch break to take a walk. Even if it’s around the block, you’ll come back feeling refreshed.

8. Boredom

If you’re bored with a work project, it’s easy to fall victim to even the smallest distraction. The same can happen when not enjoying what you’re doing too.

Boredom is the starting point that can spiral out of control easily. It leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to fatigue, which leads to scrolling through your Facebook feed for hours, killing your ability to focus.

Depression and boredom are tightly linked too so boredom could be a sign of something deeper.

The Fix: Get a Fresh Perspective

The pandemic has put a stranglehold on our social lives. Despite the restrictions on seeing other people and going out in public, you need to find a way to put the “social” back in your life.

Work-life balance is important, especially under these circumstances.

Even if you’re not comfortable with eating at a restaurant or visiting Grandma, there are things you can do. Zoom and Facetime are good options, but you might also think about having a couple of friends over on your patio while maintaining social distance.

Keep it short so no one even has to use your bathroom.

And about that boring work project? Tweak your attitude by thinking about how it will benefit your client.

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Find a way to make it fun, perhaps by discussing it with colleagues who make you laugh. You can check out more ways to make boring work interesting in the following video:

If all else fails, just muscle through it. Mark it off your list, and move on to something more engaging.

9. Excess Stress

The pandemic, politics, the economy, what’s happening in the news, your work, and more can be big points of stress. In some cases they are manageable.

But there are some days where you can’t help but worry and get stressed out about these things.

I understand that, however, it’s also a lifestyle choice for you to be getting stressed out about those things.

The Fix: Destressing

Stressing out over those things will not only cause a decrease in cognitive functioning and concentration but is also the starting point for other problems listed in this post.

To solve this, learning to destress in various ways will help out a lot. These methods include:

  • Making it a rule to stress out about things you can control rather than worry about what you can’t control.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Give yourself a break
  • Talk to other people about your worries
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol and instead, find some other way to unwind

10. Lack Of Nutrients Or Hunger

Finally, the last reason you can’t concentrate is maybe you’re not getting the right nutrients or not eating enough, to begin with.

Lack of nutrition is very common since people can get distracted by other things that they forget to eat. That or they only grab small snacks and aren’t getting the nutrients they need.

The Fix: Eat Better And Healthier

It’s vital that you’re eating properly and that you’re getting the right nutrients in your body. Vitamins like D3 and B12 help out a lot and can be taken as supplements.

In terms of actual foods, blueberries, green tea, avocadoes, fish, water, dark chocolate, flax seeds, and nuts are all proven to help with focus and concentration.

Beyond that, ensure you are eating enough at each meal and that you are eating consistently over the course of the day.

Though it’s not very common, you may also have trouble concentrating due to chronic conditions. Difficulty concentrating is a side effect of:

When Should You Seek Help?

Looking for help should be a priority if you:

  • Haven’t been diagnosed with any of the cognitive functioning disorders mentioned above and you’ve tried several of those methods mentioned above to fix difficulty concentrating;
  • Experienced loss of consciousness, severe chest pains, severe headaches, sudden and unexplained working memory loss;
  • Unusual feelings of tiredness;
  • Trouble sleeping;
  • Or seeing a decline in performance in work or school.

The Bottom Line

Concentration requires a lot of energy, motivation, and focus. That’s why most people have trouble concentrating. When there are all sorts of sounds, lights, and people competing for your attention, that combination can be elusive.

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Do your best to remove distractions, clear your mind, and take care of yourself. Those work projects will practically check themselves off once you get into a groove.

More to Help You Concentrate

Featured photo credit: Rabie Madaci via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Headache: When to worry, what to do
[2] Columbia University: How Meditation Can Help You Focus
[3] Mayo Clinic: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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