Dopamine and how to boost happiness

Each person experiences happiness differently.  There are differing degrees of positive emotional states brought about by brain chemistry in each of us.  The same event may invoke a different mix of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin that make us happy.

Each of these chemicals have an important part to play in happiness.  However, dopamine seems to have the largest part to play as the drive of our pleasure / reward system in our brain. Its activity spans so many of the key positive emotional states that we commonly share as happiness: joy, bliss, butterflies in the stomach, zest for life and the drive towards achievement are some examples.

As a powerhouse of happiness, there is a great upside and downside potential.  Unfortunately, we can get our dopamine fix by some very self-destructive means like gambling, drugs and alcohol or over-eating bad foods. I myself have sought out caffeine and sugar to give me a ‘pick-me-up’ in the past and probably have gone over-board few times.  The same goes for my use of my mobile phone where, at times, it has been my constant ‘pacifier’ to help me escape during stressful periods.

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Luckily, there are some very healthy ways to boost dopamine.  On the awesome website Brainfit, Deane Alban helps readers focus on How to Increase Dopamine Naturally.  Among the tips given, a few of my favorites are:

  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Exercise (double-points for endorphins!)
  • Avocado
  • Curcumin (active ingredient in the spice turmeric)
  • Meditation
  • Creative hobbies (like wood working)
  • Green tea
  • Sauerkraut (mmmm…sour yumminess)
  • Listening to your favorite music
  • Creating and achieving short, mid and long-term goals
  • Watermelon (mmmm…sweat summer yumminess!)
  • Trying something new to learn

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