In today’s age, we literally have the world at our fingertips. We have the ability to search for answers to our homework, receive likes on pictures we post, even hit the snooze button on our phones to delay waking up for nine more minutes. These acts enlight instant gratification and addictive pleasure.
We also experience things in life that make us feel happy for a longer period of time. The act of exercising, eating healthy meals, getting an hour of sunlight a day; all can immensely boost one’s mood.
Here’s a question to ponder:
Which is easier: Working hard for something you want or instantly being rewarded by doing nothing? I think most of us would go with the latter.
Your response to that question is why we must strive to understand two main brain chemicals: Dopamine and Serotonin. These brain chemicals are associated with mood regulation and stimulation. They dictate our emotions, mood, and overall brain function. Without them, our brain and bodily functions would be severely altered.
Let’s breakdown the difference between the two neurotransmitters:
Do you know why you feel good when you win a video game or eat dessert after dinner? It is because your brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that your body craves. It is released by pleasurable situations and leaves your body wanting more. With our present world being filled with dopamine releasing activities, your body can become flooded with dopamine chemicals. Too much dopamine can lead to addictive tendencies, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, excessive gambling, comfort eating, etc. These tendencies can result in fatigue, forgetfulness, obesity, brain fog, limited motivation, and other health detriments.
Even though dopamine has its downsides, it cannot go unstated that there are some benefits of the chemical. First off, dopamine improves memory and is imperative to central nervous system functions. Dopamine release can also be a natural way to avoid burnout in everyday life activities. Finally, dopamine can be a motivating factor. Rewarding yourself with watching a movie after completing a project can help your brain and body relax.
As you can see, dopamine has both positive and negative effects. That is why it is vital to balance your dopamine levels. Keyword here is BALANCE. *A full list of dopamine decreasing activities can be found below.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that deals with a wide range of brain functions, specifically stabilizing your emotions and mood. The neurotransmitter is produced in the brain, however the majority of your body’s serotonin is located in your digestive tract. This brain chemical is often affiliated with “true happiness” instead of instant gratification. Serotonin improves clarity of thought, intensifies social behavior, regulates mood and anxiety, and balances appetite.
There are many ways that you can boost your serotonin levels. Learning new skills, perfecting your physique, having good relationships with people, eating healthy, being exposed to sunlight, and even getting a massage all result in serotonin release. As a brain chemical, serotonin can be impacted by other factors, which can result in a deficiency.
Things that decrease serotonin levels: anxiousness, panic, pain, depression, anger, compulsiveness, etc. If you are experiencing any of these, strive to get your serotonin levels up. You will naturally start feeling better without taking any medication.
Just like dopamine, it is important to regulate your serotonin levels. *A full list of serotonin boosting activities can be found below.
I think indulging in too much dopamine releasing activities is definitely a problem that many of us experience. If you agree with this, I recommend taking some of the steps below to decrease dopamine release and increase serotonin levels.
7 Quick Tips For Decreasing Dopamine Stimulation:
- Put time limits on visiting social media websites and apps.
- Take hiatuses from high dopamine releasing activities like drinking and smoking.
- Stay away from high sugar and saturated fat foods. Places like McDonald’s and Wendy’s are often associated with excess carbohydrates, saturated fats, and sugar. Keep away from these places to decrease dopamine release.
- Consume probiotic pills. Gut bacteria has the capability of producing dopamine and releasing it throughout your body. Probiotic pills clear this bacteria out.
- Take a dopamine detox day! More details here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QiE-M1LrZk
- Stay off your phone at least 30 minutes before bed. Let your melatonin kick in.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Make sure you’re staying on a sleep schedule.
7 Quick Tips For Boosting Serotonin Levels:
- Sleep with your blinds slightly open to allow the sunlight to awaken you. This natural way of waking up will make it easier to get out of bed instead of waking to a blaring alarm.
- Workout before dinner, 4-5pm (if possible). You’ll feel accomplished after you complete your workout and eat dinner. You will also get rid of the brain fog that builds up during the day.
- Laugh at things that normally make you mad or embarrassed. This limits anger outbreaks and anxious tendencies.
- Eat healthy! Foods that boost serotonin include: salmon, nuts & seeds, eggs, pineapple, tofu, and a plethora of vegetables.
- Cut down on comfort foods and bored eating. If you eat a healthy meal, it can be ruined by indulging in bad snacks throughout the day. Strive to replace bored eating with serotonin building activities.
- Settle any fights/conflicts you are having with friends or family. Having solid relationships in your life relieves stress and loneliness.
- Do a task right when you wake up. For example: making your bed or cleaning your house.