If you want to adopt positive, healthy new year habits this January, the challenge often lies not in the action itself, but in the motivation to do it. Whether you want to start running, practicing yoga more often, eating healthily or engaging in creative activities each day, the mindset we approach these habits with determines whether they become a habit or not. You may have heard ‘it takes 21 days to form a habit’, however this isn’t necessarily true… We’re all very different, and studies show that to form the exact same habit, it can take different people anywhere between 18 and 254 days to successfully crate it (so if you’re having trouble sticking to your new routine after a week of trying, keep it up!).
To help create healthy habits, there are endless tips and tricks to try, but one of the most important things is creating a motivated mindset that actually makes us want to carry out the habit in the first place, and to maintain it over a sustained period of time. Increasing your levels of motivation has a lot to do with one specific neurotransmitter; dopamine. In this short blog, you’ll learn several ways to increase your dopamine levels to help you feel more motivated to stick to your new healthy habits. Read on to find out more!
What is dopamine?
Our mood levels are mostly determined by four primary neurotransmitters; dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline and serotonin. An imbalance in these neurotransmitters can lead to lethargy, anxiety or depression, which is why it’s so important to understand how we can influence these chemicals naturally, so you can be empowered to care for your own wellbeing without the side effects of mood-altering medications.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of alertness, drive creativity, curiosity and motivation. Most people think of dopamine as the chemical released when we want ‘more’ of something such as chocolate or sugar, but there’s much more to it than that. Dopamine helps us feel expansive and extroverted enough to explore the world around us, to move our bodies and learn new things. It gives us the motivation to take on challenges and helps us feel driven to carry out those healthy new year habits. Low levels of dopamine are linked to depression, addiction, and even Parkinson’s disease. In general, a lack of dopamine can make you feel low, apathetic, and unable to concentrate. All of those states make it very difficult to adopt healthy habits and stick to them – especially in mid-January, in Winter when it’s cold and dark…
How To Increase Your Dopamine Levels
The first thing to note is that increasing dopamine should happen in the morning, or from 0 – 8 hours after waking up. In this period of time, dopamine is naturally increased, as are healthy levels of cortisol (often thought of as the ‘stress hormone’ but which is very important in order for helping us get up and out of bed in the morning ). In order to support and increase these levels of dopamine for more motivation, creativity, focus and alertness, we need to do one, two or all of the following:
- View morning sunlight outside for a minimum of 10 minutes: This could look like stepping out into your garden or balcony, going for a morning walk or opening the windows. This is also a vital step for balancing our circadian rhythms and will thus help you get to sleep a lot easier at night.
- Exercise: a jog, brisk walk, energising yoga practice, dancing, rebounding or a gym session can all help increase your dopamine levels.
- Cold exposure: A cold shower or wild swim releases adrenaline and dopamine, and is becoming an incredibly popular way to improve many people’s mental health. Even better if you can do this in a group.
- Coffee: Wait around 90 minutes after waking to drink your coffee, in order not to disrupt cortisol levels, and when you drink your coffee, add a healthy fat such as organic cream or coconut oil, in order to protect the stomach lining, give your brain a big boost of energy, and balance hormones. A tsp of lion’s mane is also an incredible way to enhance your morning brain power. (Use the code ENY10 for 10% off yours at Enrichd Superfoods. )
- Intermittent fasting: This has been shown to increase levels of dopamine, so if your body is happy to skip breakfast, you might want to practice intermittent fasting as a health protocol. A word of warning to women, though: we should really only fast for a maximum of 12 hours, and skipping breakfast can quickly lead to disrupted hormones, so perhaps choose the option below..
- Tyrosine-Rich Foods: Tyrosine is an amino acids that acts as a precursor for dopamine (meaning it helps create and trigger this neurotransmitter). Foods rich in tyrosine include Beef, fish, chicken, dairy, bananas, pumpkin seeds, wild rice, tuna, salmon, and eggs have a good amount too, so try adding a few of these ingredients to your breakfast. Amino acid supplements can also provide you with some of this nutrient, especially if your diet is plant-based and you’re not able to naturally eat many tyrosine-rich foods. (use the code EMMA10 for 10% off your amino acids supplements HERE).
So if your mornings could use a little more motivation, try adopting one, two or all of these dopamine-boosting tips! Research also shows that when we interact with someone we love, we also release dopamine, so try going for your morning jog with a loved one, or sharing breakfast together.
A final tip to help set you up for healthy new year habits is to visualise what you want to do. The night before, visualise yourself doing your healthy morning routine and your new habits, and you’ll be wiring your brain in a way that makes it much more likely and much easier for you to carry out those positive actions.
To kick your new year off in a positive way, book a health and wellbeing consultation, where you’ll receive unique and personalised lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, self-care and mindset guidance, and much more! Receive 10% off when booking a one-off session or 6 weeks coaching in January 2022. Click here for more information.