Part 4: Dopamine – The winner
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives you focus and motivation leading to satisfaction with achievements. When we have a task to do, our brain might take us off track. Dopamine keeps us focused on the end goal – ‘if I do A, B, and C, I’ll get D!”
Dopamine’s role in healthcare when administered as a vasostimulant, treats such problems as low blood pressure, low heart rate, cardiac arrest, renal failure, shock, and septecemia. Whoa, this sounds dangerous for individuals who are using it recreationally.
How does this hormone decrease? Poor lifestyle choices, like high levels of stress, being sedentary (who, me?), lack of adequate sleep, addiction – or what some in that cycle call ‘partying’, being in the company of toxic people, marriages, jobs, and even traffic. Things that can really grind your gears – you get the jist.
How do you know if you have low levels of dompamine? You will become forgetful, fatigued, have little motivation, insomnia, moody, low libido (record scratch), and a variety of mental health disorders. When people lack dopamine, like with ADHD, they can’t stay focused on the goal. That’s where Ritalin helps, But…there’s a price to pay when abused, like developing depression, bipolar disorder, and addiction. Let’s discuss addiction. We’ve heard of athletes ‘dop-ing’. Let’s talk about other artificial pleasure pathways, too, like booze, pot, blow, molly, and acid. Yes, we used the fun words. All of these drugs, including what we think are innocent like caffeine and nicotine (the fancy words), give the neurotransmitters a surge/crash effect, weakening our natural ability to produce dopamine and creating reliance on faux helpers. Crashing over time leads to depression, anxiety, and the other disorders listed, as the body doesn’t like the feeling of low levels of it. It’s seeking that next surge.
So…what happens if you get too much? More mental health problems. Paranoia, schizophrenia, and psychosis, lack of prolactin (breast milk), impulsive behavior, anaphylaxis. High levels of dopamine can also cause high blood pressure, constricted vessels, and poor circulation. Sheesh. All for a quick fix?
What can you do about it? Exercise, exercise, exercise. The one thing so many of us resist. You can do this with as little as 10 minutes of movement a day, but more is always better. So, let’s change our habits. While binging Hulu, stand and do jumping jacks. Dance. Meditate. Massage (okay!). Get to sleep! Walk in the sunshine. Have sex and masturbate more. Host game nights – and Win. Listen to great music. Laugh your ass off. Join an improv group. Pleasure of any kind can boost dopamine.
Eat your way to the winning hormone by consuming a high protein diet with foods containing the amino acid tyrosine – bananas, almonds, avocados, eggs, beans, fish, chicken, dairy, soy, legumes, turkey, beef. Wash it all down with a big ol cup of green tea.
Cut the coconut oil and butter *gasp*. Hey, your body will love you for it. You’d be amazed at what you can create when you nix butter. Also, once you’ve abstained from it long enough, it stinks when you have it again. You’ll feel disgusting – speaking for a friend. You’ll also become a much better cook. Butter is an easy flavor to slap on food. Explore different flavors to bring pleasure to your taste buds – wait, do they have their own tiny dopamine systems?
This concludes our series on Happy Hormones. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, learned a lot, and are feeling empowered with your newfound pleasure boosts.
*If you have been dependent on artificial enhancers to boost your mood aka drugs/booze, the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner your body will begin heal itself and regulate these hormones naturally and you will feel younger, no matter what age you are. There’s therapy, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, and 12-step programs, which are free. Be the best, most authentic version of you, that you can be. Go get em, Wonder Woman!