6 daily activities that naturally release dopamine in your brain

6 daily activities that naturally release dopamine in your brain

Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that is produced in your brain. Basically, it makes you happy. And your brain releases it with certain activities and behaviors, many of which you already do every day.

“Whenever we engage in activities considered essential from our body’s perspective, our brain releases a large amount of dopamine,” which is intended to encourage you to do more of that activity, according to Dr. Kiran F. Rajneesh, the director of the division of neurological pain and associate professor of neurology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Throughout evolution, dopamine’s job was to “sense the reward, learn the place and activity that lead to the reward, and also motivate you to go to those places to get [a] reward,” said Dr. Hitoshi Morikawa, an associate professor in the departments of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin. And it is still the case today. In essence, “dopamine is a reward sensor,” Morikawa said.

While this reward sensor was and is essential for human survival, evolution has made it so maladaptive that behaviors also cause the release of dopamine in humans, the two experts said.

“Usually when neuroscientists talk about dopamine, we think of addiction because it’s an addictive factor,” Morikawa explained.

The hormone makes you want to repeat certain behaviors, turning them into habits, whether healthy or not. (Like substance abuse or smoking, for example.)

However, this is not always the case. The release of this hormone is also part of your body’s daily function. Although it’s not a cure for any disease or condition, it can be helpful to know when dopamine is released – and when you can expect to feel a little mood boost as a result. Here are some times when your body releases dopamine:

While eating

Our prehistoric ancestors knew that food was necessary for survival, in part because of the dopamine-activated reward sensor. It is still true today.

In fact, Rajneesh said any activity that is “evolutionarily protective and essential to our well-being and survival” releases dopamine. Being able to find food and eat that food certainly falls into this category.

Some studies even say that eating causes dopamine to be released twice: first when the food is consumed and again when the food is in the stomach.

Drink water

Think about it: when you’re thirsty, a glass of water is definitely a reward, so it’s no wonder it also triggers the release of dopamine in your brain.

But not every sip of water releases dopamine, Morikawa noted. Instead, you must really want or need water, like after a tough workout or on a hot day.

“In the middle of summer in Austin, and you’re really thirsty, drinking water should increase dopamine levels in the brain – it should be one of the most effective ways to increase them,” he said. -he declares.

A glass of water on a hot day can release dopamine in your body.

The Good Brigade via Getty Images

A glass of water on a hot day can release dopamine in your body.

Receive praise

A very common way to release dopamine is to praise kids for good behavior, Rajneesh said. Praise triggers a dopamine release in children’s brains – and the same goes for praise from pets. In these situations, their good behaviors are reinforced by the feel-good nature of this dopamine release, he said.

The same is true when adults receive praise, Rajneesh added. So sending a congratulatory email to your colleague or a celebratory text to a friend actually does more good than you think.

This is especially important for people with certain conditions resulting from low dopamine levels, such as ADHD, according to ADDitude Magazine, an ADHD-focused publication.

Play video games

Many studies have measured and found that playing video games causes the release of dopamine in the brain in some people, Morikawa noted.

While that’s not a bad thing in itself, it can turn negative if the feeling of playing video games is too positive or too fun, he added. When ‘dopamine levels rise, sometimes you get really addicted [onto] certain activities,” Morikawa said.

In this case, that activity may be video games, which may cause problems for people who are not professional gamers, he added. (For instance, students who should do their homework instead of playing.)

have sex

Sex causes a release of endorphins, as Dr. Elizabeth C. Gardner, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Yale Medicine, once told HuffPost. And studies show that it also causes a dopamine release.

Over the course of evolution, the dopamine system developed to aid “the survival and maintenance of our species,” Morikawa said. In other words, there’s an instinctive reason why sex is so appealing. Our brains are wired to know that sex is important for survival, and the neurons that release dopamine do so when they sense the reward associated with the act.

Activities that improve your well-being

Meditation and other activities can also cause a dopamine release, Rajneesh said.

“Engage in activities that improve your well-being such as yoga, exercise, hobbies [and] games … can help release dopamine in the brain and further enhance your sense of well-being and health as nature intended,” Rajneesh said.

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