By Jessica Forster
Motivation – the force that propels us to reach our goals and dreams. It’s the driving factor behind our actions, but it’s very easy to find yourself running low on motivation.
What you’re yearning for in those moments is dopamine. It’s a neurotransmitter known as the “feel-good” chemical in our brains, responsible for a host of functions, including motivation.
The good news is that there is a plethora of easy, dopamine-boosting techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life. By prioritising dopamine production, you can find yourself sailing through tasks and working to your full potential.
Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s a powerful tool to supercharge your dopamine levels. When you work out, your brain releases dopamine, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and motivation. Not only does exercise boost dopamine, but it also increases the availability of dopamine receptors, making your brain more responsive to this feel-good neurotransmitter. Start with activities you enjoy, whether it’s a brisk walk, a dance class, or a session of strength training. The key is to find what you love, so you’ll look forward to it each day. Even the smallest sessions can give you the kick you need.
Break it down
One of the best ways to increase your motivation is by setting achievable goals and celebrating your successes along the way. Each time you reach a milestone, your brain releases dopamine, reinforcing the behaviour that led to the achievement. These “micro-wins” provide a steady flow of motivation. Whether it’s a work project, a fitness goal, or a personal project, breaking it down into smaller tasks can make the path to success less daunting. The dopamine boost from each completed task will keep you inspired and moving forward. Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate each victory to propel yourself through the next goal.
Feed your brain: nutrition for dopamine production
Dopamine production is closely linked to the nutrients you consume. If you’re looking for an easy way to boost your dopamine levels, make sure you’re getting the right foods. Focus on a diet rich in protein, particularly foods like lean meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. These sources provide the necessary amino acids for dopamine synthesis. Don’t worry, you can still fuel yourself for dopamine production if you’re vegan. There are plenty of plant-based alternatives such as legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh. Struggling to get on with your to-do list? Maybe you need a fuel boost. Start your days with a protein-packed breakfast and snack on some nuts and seeds throughout the day for an extra kick.
The state of flow, where you’re deeply engaged in an activity you’re passionate about, can trigger a huge surge of dopamine. This could be playing a musical instrument, painting, writing, gaming, reading or any other glee-fuelled endeavour. A technique I encourage with my clients is effectively pairing up the difficult, less desirable tasks with those that they thrive doing. Allow the former to piggyback on the motivation of the latter. Alternate your tasks by starting with something that excites you, then once you feel invigorated enough, you do a big push of effort for as long as you can manage on an essential task. Once you start to feel too depleted to continue, you repeat the process. Not only does the dopamine boost make productivity a lot easier but also it gives you something to look forward to while working. Your days don’t have to feel like you’re dragging yourself from one frustrating task to the next. Prioritising balance is how you accomplish your best.
Calm your mind
Stress and anxiety can swiftly deplete your dopamine reserves. That’s why being overworked can lead to feeling demotivated. You’re not being lazy, you’re just running on an empty tank. Focusing on reaching a state of mental calm and clarity before you begin a project can be one of the best ways to enable greater motivation throughout. Mindfulness practices and meditation can help to reduce stress and increase dopamine production. Even if you’re pressed for time, short mindful breathing exercises can lessen your stress levels and ground you in the right headspace for concentration and productivity.
One of the simplest techniques to start with is box breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds, expanding your stomach and chest as much as possible. Hold for 4 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds like you’re letting out the air of a balloon. Then hold for another 4 seconds and repeat.
Human connection is a potent source of dopamine. Positive social interactions, laughter, and support from loved ones can release this feel-good neurotransmitter. Don’t underestimate the power of spending quality time with friends and family. Sometimes the best productivity boost is to take a break and engage in activities that promote social bonding. This could be sharing a meal, attending a social event, or simply having a heart-to-heart conversation. See it as recharging your batteries to get you through the next leg of whatever you’re trying to accomplish. If you can, find a partner to body-double with so that you can both work towards your goals. Body-doubling is having someone physically present with you as you work on a task. Not only can you help each other stay on track and focused, but even just the sharing of space and cheering each other on can boost your dopamine-driven motivation. It’s a win-win for all involved.
Novelty and reward
Novel experiences and rewards are powerful dopamine stimulators. Your brain loves surprises and rewards. You can apply this principle to your daily life by trying new things, setting up a reward system for yourself, or challenging your brain with puzzles and games. For example, once you’ve broken a large project into bitesize milestones as mentioned above, assign rewards to the completion of each task. Try to make it as joyful and personal to yourself as possible. Think of your brain as a loved one that you want to surprise with a gift. A common barrier I notice with my clients is the ingrained feeling of obligation to be practical even when it isn’t required. Being an adult and being chronically sensible don’t need to be synonymous. Choose rewards that would have your inner child lighting up from ear to ear. The more satisfaction and glee you feel from it, the better the dopamine stimulation of success will be. Throw out what you “should” want and celebrate with some stickers, a cuddly toy, a video game or a fun day out; whatever makes you most excited and motivated.
Being drained by demotivation and feeling incapable of achieving your goals doesn’t have to be your normal. By incorporating these simple dopamine hacks, you can take control of your motivation levels and give yourself the boost you deserve. Harness the power of the “feel-good hormone” to fuel your aspirations and find pleasure in productivity.
About the author
Jessica Forster is a Holistic Health & Wellness Specialist and Founder of Empowered Health Education. As a licensed yoga teacher with qualifications ranging across nutrition, physical training, mental health and hormone management, Jessica works with her clients to map out and execute a balanced health plan that addresses the full picture. She is dedicated to empowering individuals to take control of their own well-being through education, support and personalised guidance. She specialises in providing a practical, realistic and compassionate approach to health, with an emphasis on understanding and supporting the different needs of an individual, instead of a one-size-fits-all mindset.
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