9 Ways to Increase Your Dopamine Levels for a Natural High

Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 30, 2022

Table of Contents

Dopamine plays many essential roles in your body; Are you struggling to summon up enough motivation to deal with your day?

Maybe you find yourself getting very easily distracted and unable to focus, battling to finish simple tasks.

Need help getting addiction treatment?

Even worse, you could feel like you’ve lost your lust for life.

All of these issues and more could indicate reduced dopamine levels, but what is dopamine and why should you care?

What is Dopamine?

The average human brain contains a staggering 86 billion neurons. These neurons communicate with each other through neurotransmitters.

Dopamine, then, is one of 100 neurotransmitters in your brain, and it’s largely responsible for keeping you motivated and focused.

When you accomplish a task – perhaps something related to your recovery – dopamine delivers a powerful sense of satisfaction.

This feel-good chemical is also released when you exercise or play sports.

Learning new things and accomplishments at home or work can also trigger higher levels of dopamine.

A dopamine deficiency can create imbalance in many aspects of your life. Too little dopamine in your system can lead to:

  • Apathy
  • Lack of focus
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Lowered motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Sugar cravings
  • Unhealthy negative behaviors

Dopamine deficiency can manifest in a number of ways. Unfortunately, many of the things people do to seek out a dopamine fix end up backfiring.

Consider nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar-stuffed snacks dripping with fat and calories. They have two things in common. They can all trigger a dopamine boost, but they can also end up as the root cause of addictive behaviors. By disrupting the natural production of dopamine in your body, you’ll end up interfering with the long-term production of this neurotransmitter.

Dopamine and Addiction: How to Increase Dopamine After Addiction

Large amounts of dopamine lead to a feeling of reward and pleasure. You will also be motivated to repeat behaviors leading to more dopamine being delivered.

For this reason, when you take substances that increase your dopamine levels, you’ll feel encouraged to repeat those actions to obtain more of the same. At the same time, the more of the drug you take, the more the dopamine receptors in your brain are depressed. Resultantly, you’ll find it hard to experience joy in the everyday, constantly seeking instead the more intense and unnatural high delivered by drugs that flood your system with dopamine.

More research is needed in this area, but it’s clear that addictive behaviors and dopamine are linked in many ways.

Now, whether you are still using substances, you are recovering from addiction, or you’re simply looking for more get up and go the natural way, you’re in luck today.

We’ll walk you through a cross-section of approaches all capable of delivering more dopamine without drink or drugs.

9 Best Natural Ways to Increase Dopamine

  1. Exercise frequently
  2. Eat plenty of protein
  3. Consider probiotics
  4. Make sleep a priority
  5. Practice meditation
  6. Get plenty of sunlight
  7. Have a massage
  8. Listen to some good music
  9. If all else fails, investigate supplements

1) Exercise frequently

One of the easiest ways to boost levels of dopamine and improve your mood.

While you can get away with just 10 minutes of aerobic exercises to start noticing an improvement in mood, the strongest effects are felt after 30 minutes.

Aim to perform at least some cardiovascular exercise each day, ideally for 20 to 30 minutes.

Although the impact on your mood after exercise is not purely due to dopamine levels, there are animal studies indicating that exercise could increase levels of dopamine in the brain.

We need more research into the type, duration, and intensity of exercise that has the most pronounced effect. Current research on animals shows that running on a treadmill does not increase dopamine levels, while performing an hour of yoga on six days of the week can significantly increase levels of this neurotransmitter.

2) Eat plenty of protein

Why is it that eating a protein-rich diet increases levels of dopamine?

Well, protein is often referred to as the building blocks of the body. Alongside water and fats, protein makes up over 15% of your body.

Amino acids are often called the building blocks of protein. In total, there are 23 amino acids. Your body is able to synthesize some of these. Others need to be derived from food. One amino acid in particular is pivotal to the production of dopamine: tyrosine.

You have enzymes in your body capable of transforming tyrosine into dopamine, so getting enough tyrosine into your system is beneficial for dopamine production.

Tyrosine is found in protein-dense foods like:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Legumes
  • Soy

Studies showing that extremely high or extremely low intakes of tyrosine can impact dopamine levels, but it’s still unclear whether varying your protein intake slightly would have a significant impact.

3) Consider probiotics

As mentioned, dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Despite being based in the brain, your gut also plays a key role in calibrating dopamine levels in your body. Indeed, the gut is often called the second brain. This name is applied due to the high volume of nerve cells producing neurotransmitter-signaling molecules.

Give the part your gut plays in dopamine levels, probiotics could be helpful if you’re looking to increase the levels of the feel-good chemical in your body. You’ll need to speak with your doctor to determine which probiotics would be most useful. You’ll also need to establish an appropriate dosage.

Research in this area is limited, but it’s been noted that people with well-balanced gut bacteria have improved mood, while those with their gut bacteria out of kilter are often affected by mood-related symptoms. Several studies show that certain types of bacteria, when consumed in large enough amounts, could reduce depression and anxiety.

What is clear is that some bacteria living in your gut are also able to produce dopamine. This could impact both mood and behavior.

4) Make sleep a priority

If you’re recovering from addiction to drink or drugs, chances are your sleeping patterns have been disrupted. You may find it tough to drop off, or you could be affected by insomnia.

Studies have shown that your brain is normally flooded with dopamine in the morning, but that dopamine levels are depleted when it’s time to go to bed. These regular rhythms are molested, though, when you are sleep-deprived.

One study showed that people forced to stay awake throughout the night had reduced availability of dopamine receptors the following morning.

Making sure you get enough sleep, and ensuring that it’s high-quality sleep, could help to keep your levels of dopamine balanced. Resultantly, you should feel more alert and better able to function.

Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night, ideally 8 or 9 hours. You should also undertake all proper sleep hygiene, including:

  • Waking and sleeping at the same time daily
  • Minimizing noise in the bedroom
  • Using blackout curtains
  • Avoiding electronic devices before bed
  • Eliminating caffeine during the afternoon and evening
  • Using your bed for nothing but sleeping

If you fail to get enough sleep, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you want to stay strong against the temptation to relapse. Beyond this, a lack of sleep also reduces your brain’s dopamine sensitivity causing you to feel excessively sleepy, so do all you can to rest adequately during your recovery. You can then continue with these healthy sleep habits, potentially improving your mood.

5) Practice meditation

Meditation can be an effective component of holistic treatment for drug addiction. When you meditate, you clear your mind of all clutter, focus inward, and allow your thoughts to come and go without making judgment.

You don’t need to attend special classes to meditate. You can meditate standing, sitting, or even walking.

Regular meditation has proven benefits for both physical and mental health. According to new research, these benefits could be at least partly due to elevated dopamine levels in the problem. One study showed that experienced meditation teachers had a dramatic increase in dopamine levels after an hour of meditation. What’s unclear is whether newcomers to meditation could derive similar benefits.

6) Get plenty of sunlight

It’s no secret that exposure to sunlight is linked to mood. 10 million Americans are affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a condition in which inadequate exposure to sunlight triggers sadness or depression.

When you go through periods of not seeing enough sunlight, this can result in a dip in levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine. One study found adults receiving the most exposure to sunlight over the previous month had the greatest amount of dopamine receptors in the reward region of the brain.

Although spending time in the sun could boost your dopamine levels and your mood, you should be aware of safety guidelines. Moderation is crucial if you want to mitigate your risk of skin cancer. Always apply sunscreen and limit your exposure to the sun between 10am and 2pm.

7) Have a massage

One of the most effective ways of keeping your dopamine levels up is to avoid stress wherever possible. The nature of modern life, though, means this is easier said than done.

It’s easy not to spend enough time and effort on self-care. While this is something everyone should work on improving, if you’re recovery from a substance abuse disorder, it’s more important than ever.

Some research suggests that massage therapy can raise dopamine levels but up to one-third. At the same time, a relaxing massage can decrease levels of cortisone (a stress hormone).

When you’re recovering from an addiction to drink or drugs, it’s often good to incentivize yourself with healthy rewards using the money you would have otherwise spent on substances. If your first reaction here is, “I can’t afford a massage”, ask yourself honestly how much you were spending weekly on your addiction. Chances are, it wasn’t as much as a 30-minute massage session.

8) Listen to some good music

Another great way of stimulating the release of dopamine into your brain is listening to your favorite music.

Several studies point to an increase in activity in your brain’s reward center when you fire up your favorite playlist. Dopamine levels can increase by up to 10%.

Now, all studies in this area have focused purely on instrumental music. This is to be certain that the changes in dopamine levels were due to the melody and not through the suggestion of certain lyrics.

9) If all else fails, investigate supplements

Your body needs a variety of minerals and vitamins to produce dopamine, including:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Iron

Deficiency in any of these areas could lead to depleted levels of dopamine with the correspondingly adverse effects outlined above.

If blood tests show you to be deficient in vitamins and minerals, you could consider supplementing your diet. Speak with your doctor about using the following supplements:

  • Vitamin D
  • Green tea
  • Oregano extract
  • Curcumin

Note that the above supplements have been proven beneficial for increasing levels of dopamine in animal studies, but more human research is needed to flesh out these claims.

Avoid the following supplements as these can inhibit your body’s production of dopamine:

  • White mulberry
  • Noni fruit
  • Licorice root
  • Magnolia bark
  • Melatonin
  • 5-HTP

Don’t start taking any form of supplementation without consulting with your healthcare provider.

What Comes Next at Renaissance Recovery?

We hope that today’s glance at how to improve dopamine levels in your body when you stop using drink or drugs has been inspiring.

Finding pleasure in normal and healthy activities after a prolonged period of drug abuse can be challenging. If you’ve been addicted for a sustained period, your brain will have undergone changes, and it will be expecting the usual flood of dopamine brought on by alcohol or drugs. In the absence of this substance, your brain has a tough time normalizing.

Aside from embracing some of these hints today, you should also explore suitable addiction treatment programs. Here at Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in helping people just like you commit to long-term recovery while rediscovering joy in the simple things in life. To get started on your road to recovery, call us today at 866.330.9449.866.330.9449



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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