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How to hack dopamine to beat procrastination and boost motivation


How to Increase Dopamine to Cure Procrastination & Boost Motivation

Instead of studying for your exam, you're cleaning your make-up brushes. Instead of doing that report for work, you're organizing the spice cabinet. 

Ever heard of "productive procrastination?" It's when you dodge the thing you're really supposed to be doing by keeping busy with other things that seem important but really aren't.

Why is it so hard to just do the thing we need to do? Why do we procrastinate, and how can we stop? 

In good news for procrastinators everywhere, there's a simple solution to turbo-charge motivation, and it takes less than 30 seconds to do.

Your brain on dopamine

So what does dopamine do? According to a 2012 study, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that motivates us to do things that bring us pleasure, and avoid things that bring us pain. 

Dopamine incentivizes us to do things required for survival, like sex and eating. It also incentivizes us to NOT do things that would put us in danger, like touching fire or trying to give a bear a hug.

This is obviously useful! But we also get hit after hit of dopamine when we scroll endlessly on Tik Tok, which keeps us on there until 2am. It's also why we procrastinate on those boring or difficult tasks that don't bring us pleasure, like writing an essay.

What depletes dopamine?

The three biggest threats to our dopamine levels in our day to day lives are chronic stress, poor diet, and social media.

How chronic stress depletes dopamine

In situations of acute stress, dopamine is released as a precursor for adrenaline. Adrenaline helps you in crisis situations by preparing your body to "fight or flight". 

When we are chronically stressed, our body continues to use up our supply of dopamine, causing dopamine deficiency.

At the same time, our body burns through nutrients faster in times of chronic stress. Nutrients like amino acids, B vitamins and magnesium, which are precursors for dopamine, are depleted as your body tries to keep up with creating more dopamine.

How poor diet depletes dopamine

As previously mentioned, your body requires nutrients like amino acids, B vitamins and magnesium to build neurotransmitters like dopamine. 

Unfortunately nowadays, our diets are lacking in nutrients thanks to highly processed foods, chronic stress, environmental toxins, poor food manufacturing processes, and soil depletion. 

How social media depletes dopamine

You may have heard of people doing a "dopamine detox" due to the impacts things like social media, video games, and TV can have on our dopamine levels. 

When we consume digital media like TV shows, TikTok, podcasts and even our favorite songs, it releases a lot of dopamine which sets off a good feeling in the brain. Most of the content on our phones is designed to activate the reward pathway as strongly as possible, to keep you on the app.

According to research on drug addiction, our brain responds to the overproduction of dopamine by decreasing dopamine production, to bring it back to baseline. This results in a dopamine deficit, which leads to depression, anxiety, procrastination, and difficulty focusing.

This is when we start to get "hungry for more" dopamine and have trouble breaking away from our phones.

When we take time away from digital media, we're resetting these reward pathways and getting our dopamine levels back to baseline. 

How to regulate dopamine levels naturally

Here are 5 ways to regulate dopamine levels naturally so you can push through procrastination and skyrocket your productivity!

1. Eat and supplement nutrients that increase dopamine levels

As mentioned, there are certain nutrients that are the building blocks for neurotransmitters like dopamine.

The amino acid L-Tyrosine is a precursor for dopamine. L-Tyrosine can be taken in the form of supplements, and is also found in chicken, turkey, fish, milk, and cottage cheese. 

Vitamin B6 is required for the synthesis of L-Tyrosine and other amino acids into dopamine. Vitamin B6 is typically found in B-complex vitamins and in foods like Beef liver, tuna and salmon.

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*Please consult with your healthcare provider before trying new supplements for focus and productivity. This article does not diagnose or treat any condition, it is for educational purposes only.

 2. Improve your sleep

Getting consistent, quality sleep each night restores dopamine levels. Dopamine levels actually drop when we fall asleep, but they rise again when we go into REM sleep, when you’re dreaming, which is why it’s so important to get quality sleep that lets you access that.

3. Get regular exercise

Following physical activity, there is a surge of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. This is why you feel good after exercising! By linking workouts to feelings of pleasure and reward, exercise-related dopamine release increases positive feelings and motivates you to continue exercising.

4. Get exposure to morning sunlight

When your skin absorbs sunlight and produces vitamin D, that cycle triggers the production of dopamine as well as serotonin, meaning time in the sun can boost your dopamine levels.

5. Be mindful of what kinds of breaks you take

Instead of using breaks from doing work or studying to scroll on social media, use those 5-10 minutes to take a walk without your phone, or stretch and move your body. This will make it easier to go back to whatever task you're working on with more focus.

In Summary

Dopamine incentivizes us to do pleasurable things required for survival, like sex and eating. It's also why we procrastinate on those boring or difficult tasks that don't bring us pleasure, like writing an essay.

The three biggest threats to our dopamine levels are chronic stress, poor diets, and social media.

You can regulate dopamine levels naturally by eating and supplementing with nutrients required for neurotransmitter production. These include amino acids, B vitamins, and magnesium. 

You can also increase dopamine levels by getting proper sleep, getting regular exercise, getting sunlight exposure, and taking social media-free breaks.