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Published on April 19, 2021

6 Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine And Boost Mental Energy

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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Published on May 3, 2021

What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

What Is Decision Fatigue And How To Combat It

How often have you had the experience of needing to make tough decisions that pull you in different directions? You go round and round in circles and, in the end, you either flip a coin or make a snap decision because you’re just too tired to think anymore. Or maybe, you simply put off reaching a decision indefinitely, which is sometimes easier than making a tough call.

Can you relate to this currently? If so, then you’re likely suffering from decision fatigue. Poor decisions are made not because of incapability but because arriving at one or more choices takes its toll—to the extent that it severely weakens our mental energy.

Now that we know what decision fatigue is, let’s explore the primary ways to combat it to enable a stronger mental state coupled with better decision-making.

1. Identify and Make the Most Important Decisions First

If you have a busy personal or work life where many tricky decisions are on the table every day, this can easily and quickly become overwhelming. In this instance, create mental space by initially laying out all situations and challenges requiring a decision. Use a basic software tool or write them down on paper—a notepad file or word document is sufficient.

Once you have your complete list, carefully pick out the most important items needing a conclusion sooner rather than later. Be mindful of the fact that you can’t treat everything as urgent or requiring immediate attention. There have to be some things that are more important than others!

Prioritize and Declare the Appropriate Options

Equipped with your most pressing items awaiting decisions, add another layer of scrutiny by prioritizing them even further. The result should allow you to identify, in order, your most urgent and important tasks without any conflicting priorities.

The last part of this exercise is to highlight all of the options to consider for your most important decision and work through them one by one. With the visual representation of options and most critical decisions out the way first, you’ll be able to think more clearly and prevent decision fatigue from subtly kicking in.

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2. Implement Daily Routines to Automate Less Important Decisions

“Shall I have a healthy lunch today?” “Should I wake up earlier tomorrow?” “What time should I prepare dinner tonight?”

As trivial as these questions appear to be, each one still requires a decision. Stack them on top of other straightforward everyday questions in addition to more significant ones, and things can start to add up unpleasantly.

Small or less important decisions can eat away at your time and productivity. When many other decisions need to be made in parallel, it can lead to decision fatigue. However, there’s a method to avoid this. It involves streamlining aspects of your life by automating repetitive decisions, and this drives the ability to make better decisions overall.[1]

It’s Your Routine—Control It to Create Time for Other Activities

Instead of having to decide multiple times per week if you should have a healthy lunch, create a daily routine sufficiently ahead of time by dictating what healthy food you’ll eat for lunch every day. In doing so, you’re putting that particular decision on autopilot. Your predefined routine commits you to a decision immediately and without hesitation.

Invest time into highlighting all of the trivial and recurring situations requiring decisions daily, then implement a collective routine that relieves the need for you to give them much thought (if any thought at all).

3. Put a Time Limit on Every Decision

Making complex or big decisions increases the risk of draining your energy. This is especially true if you struggle with the fear of making the wrong decision. The doubt and worry bouncing around inside continuously are enough for the majority of people to become fed up and exhausted.

To make good decisions, you need to be in the right position to act. A tactic to deploy is to essentially force yourself to act by setting a time limit on your decision-making process. What might seem a little daunting—given that it can create a sense of added pressure—actually provides clarity on when you need to conclude since you can see the end in sight.

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Grow in Confidence by Reducing Hesitation

After making the decision, it’s time to move on. You’ll feel good and build self-confidence knowing that you didn’t linger on the choices available.

Only consider revisiting a previous decision if something unexpected occurs that impacts it. If that’s the case, then follow the same process by ensuring you make the revised decision before a new deadline.

4. Seek Input From Other People—Don’t Decide Alone

There’s a time and place to make decisions alone, but sometimes, it’s appropriate to involve others. If there’s any degree of struggle in reaching a verdict, then seeking opinions from people in your network can lessen the mental burden of indecisiveness.

Do you feel comfortable seeking input from other people to help make decisions? Trust and feeling secure in your relationships are crucial to answer “yes” to this question.

Explore the Thoughts of Others and Gain a Different Perspective

An insecure business leader likely won’t trust their team(s) to help them make decisions. On the other hand, an assured and secure business leader realizes they don’t “know it all.” Instead of going solo on all work-related decisions, they install trust among their team and get the support required to arrive at the best possible decisions.

The ability to make a great decision can depend on the information related to it that’s at your disposal. When faced with a difficult choice, don’t be afraid to lean on the relevant people for help. They can offer valid alternatives that are otherwise easy to overlook or hold the key to you making a well-informed decision.

5. Simplify and Lower the Number of Available Options

You’re standing in the store, facing an aisle of more than 20 varieties of peanut butter. You have no idea which one to choose, and although there are subtle differences, they all look fairly similar. No doubt you’ve been in this situation at least once in the past (maybe with a substitute for peanut butter!).

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This is a classic example of having too many choices—an event that makes you prone to decide to do nothing or waste time by continually pondering on which product to buy.

According to the psychological concept known as choice overload, simply having too many options can be disruptive and overburdening, causing decision fatigue.[2] Using the example above, you might make the easiest choice of avoiding any further thought, which often results in the purchase of the wrong item.

Extract Meaningful Information and Evaluate Options With a Binary Outcome

To simplify and lower your range of options, leverage the information available and extract what’s most important for you to make a decision. Is it the price? The protein content? Whether it has sustainable packaging or a combination of multiple details?

Keep a tight lid on having too many important components. Prioritize if necessary, and implement a binary outcome (of “yes” or “no” / “true” or “false”) to help arrive at decisions earlier, such as defining a limited price range that the product must fall within.

6. Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

Arguably, attention is the currency of the modern world. The ability to concentrate better than the next person can mean the difference between a successful student, a thriving business, a happy parent, and a great decision-maker.

So, how can you improve your attention span to make better choices and avoid decision fatigue? There are many strategies, and one of the most optimal ways is to eliminate distractions. Today, the easiest distractions are a result of technology and the devices running it—all of which are at your fingertips 24/7.

Create Extended Periods of Time to Increase Focus

These distractions might be small or large, but the broader issue is the frequency of them, and they repeatedly cause a break in your focus. Dealing with this while trying to make the right decision can be mentally debilitating.

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Technology distractions commonly relate to email, instant messages, push notifications from mobile apps, and scrolling through social media feeds. Access to all of these technologies and tools must be limited to scheduled time blocks (ideally, using a calendar if it’s during a working day).

Switch off notifications entirely to all of the above to prevent distractions (where possible) when it’s not time to look at them. This enables you to think more deeply and focus for prolonged periods of time, ultimately boosting the chances of making good decisions.

Final Thoughts

Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon that can deplete energy levels and increase stress. It can affect anyone who has to make decisions, whether they are minor or major ones.

Overcoming decision fatigue needs patience and dedication. By applying the best practices discussed in this article, you’ll be on the path to implement valuable changes. These changes will increase your productivity, as well as drastically improve your consistency and ability to make the right choices.

More About Decision Fatigue

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] FlexRule: Decision Automation
[2] Behavioral Economics: Choice Overload

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