When you wake up each day with that terrible Monday morning feeling, something is wrong. Unless you’re the grumpiest person on the planet, you probably shouldn’t feel like you’re in a bad mood all the time.
If you’re also tired, unable to experience joy and have a hard time concentrating on things, you may be dealing with dopamine deficiency.
The dopamine reward
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. The mystery of dopamine still hasn’t been solved completely, but we know it plays a pretty big part in the pleasure and reward mechanisms of your brain, together with serotonin.
Dopamine is released when good things happen and makes you feel all tingly inside. Your body is telling you that did a good thing with a nice "good job, champ".
A 'good thing' could be anything from sex, making an especially good deal at work, to eating good food or playing slot machines (cunningly designed to give you an occasional rush, to keep you coming back for more).
So dopamine is supposed work as a natural motivator. You achieve something, you get a reward. This helps you to keep discovering new things, even if it’s as basic as "this food is yummy".
On a fundamental level, we're all thrill-seekers. But certain things and especially certain substances can wreak havoc on your natural dopamine levels.
Drugs & dopamine
Drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines increase the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is where much of the euphoric high comes from. You feel great even though you didn’t really do much to earn it. You slacker.
That rush is nevertheless very addictive. But take too much and you may end paying a high price in the form of coping with really low dopamine levels afterwards.
We love a good party as much as the next guy, but it would be nice to be able to experience joy the rest of the week too. So what can you do?
Putting the DO back in dopamine
Luckily there are things you can do to get rid of those feelings of hopelessness and wrestle back control over your mood. One of the basic building blocks of dopamine is the amino acid tyrosine. Without it, you can’t make dopamine. The following foods are known to increase dopamine:
Almonds, avocados, bananas, green tea, low-fat dairy, meat and poultry, lima beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds. Eating chocolate is also known to make you feel good, but careful you don’t overdo it.
What else can you do?
But there’s more you can do than stuff your face with food or supplements. The most important thing to realize is that it may not happen on it's own. You have to fight for it!
- For one, take a break from all drugs and alcohol. If it messes with your happiness in the long run, it’s not worth it.
- Go to bed earlier and making sure you get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise more regularly. Many people find that sports and athletic achievements give their own special rush.
- Try to undertake more activities that make you feel happy. Get out of the house and just go do something that makes you happier. Whether it’s doing things with friends or just by yourself.
- Set goals, however small, and reward yourself if you can achieve these goals.
Finally, if none of this helps and you’re still feeling down more often than not, you may be dealing with a depression. Don’t let it cast a dark shadow over your life. Consult a healthcare professional.
And if nobody ever tells you this, we will. You are awesome. You deserve to enjoy every last bit of life!