Where’s my dopamine?
We all need some dopamine. It’s true we can become a bit addicted to it and be driven by our need for it (see Chasing Dopamine) but a healthy dose can balance out stress hormones and keep us happy and satisfied. A complete lack of dopamine can contribute to burnout or even depression.
So where do we get dopamine?
We can get dopamine from external sources (food, drink, drugs, etc), from activities (exercise, listening to music, laughing) and from emotions which are internal responses to external events – like feeling that you belong.
To read more about external sources of dopamine, see Healthline’s article about increasing dopamine.
Here we want to focus on how we can create dopamine through how we experience life and how we view those experiences.
We can see a lot of possibilities by considering the Be SAFE & Certain model: Belonging, Status, Autonomy, Fairness, Expectations and Certainty. Each of these elements can either build dopamine or diminish it, depending on how our brain interprets external events and internal thought patterns.
Some ways to increase dopamine levels
- Find people who accept you for who you are and spend time with them
- Stop telling yourself that you do not fit in
- Look for how people include you rather than focusing on how they exclude you
- Ask for feedback about what works well in the work you do
- Be clear about your roles at work or even outside of work.
- Stop judging yourself or telling yourself that you are not good enough
- Give feedback to people who micromanage you and ask them to give you more room to roam
- Give yourself permission to be unique and different and to do things your way
- Find out how or where you have room to do things your own way
- Recognise that fairness is subjective. If you focus on what’s not fair, you will find many unfair things in your life and world and you will continually experience disappointment or frustration about those. If you focus on what IS fair or how you can create a little more fairness, you will end up with more feel-good dopamine
- Set some exciting goals for yourself – goals that feel like a stretch and ones that you know you can reach if you try
- Refrain from setting bars for yourself and others that are too high; this will usually only lead to disappointment and a fast reduction of dopamine
- Find what you CAN be certain about even though the world is full of uncertainty
- Focus on what you can be certain about and soften your focus on the unknown
- Work on accepting some of the uncertainties of life and learn to flow with them
Small changes can have a big impact on the dopamine in your brain and body. A little more dopamine can help you reduce stress and increase motivation and satisfaction in your life.The No-Show epidemicThe power of attention