Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and wellbeing. Healthy dopamine levels help control our brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
But dopamine also plays a number of more subtle roles in the mind and body, like helping to regulate movement and emotional responses, and enabling us to see rewards and take the actions necessary to achieve them.
Dopamine also affects:
The problem with dopamine - why most people’s levels are out of whack
Dopamine has recently come into the spotlight again because many Silicon Valley figures are doing what they call a dopamine fast - a period of abstention from things like sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, social media, and, in some extreme cases, talking to other people, for at least 24 hours.
I think most of us can agree that this seems like an extreme approach. But it begs a deeper question: why are so many people’s dopamine levels so out of whack that doing something like a dopamine fast would seem beneficial?
People’s dopamine levels are out of whack for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, this is a result of continually flooding the brain with dopamine and feelings of pleasure/reward even though nothing has actually been achieved to warrant this chemical release. This is done through a variety of unhealthy behaviors, but some examples are a very rich or sugary diet, excessive masturbation/exposure to pornography, or overconsumption of intoxicants like marijuana or alcohol.
A less extreme approach to healthy dopamine levels
Instead of immediately taking an extreme approach to correcting dopamine levels, like a dopamine fast, let’s explore some more moderate ways to promote healthy dopamine levels.
Rather than cutting things out of our lives completely, a better approach may be to moderate the use of over stimulating activities. In our hyper-stimulated culture, this can be difficult.
Try to curb your exposure to things that increase dopamine through artificial stimulation: things like excessive screen time, sugar, and intoxicants like drugs and alcohol.
In the meantime, incorporate some activities that have been shown to boost dopamine levels naturally. Activities like proper sleep and regular exercise have been shown to promote dopamine production.
Additionally, decreasing stress is thought to benefit your dopamine levels. Healthy ways to lower stress and relax, like massage therapy and bodywork, have been shown in scientific studies to lower stress hormones and boost dopamine levels.
Mucuna Pruriens benefits for dopamine levels
One final thing to incorporate for boosting dopamine levels would be the ayurvedic herb Mucuna Pruriens. Mucuna is very high in an amino acid known as L-Dopa, which converts into dopamine within your body. This has earned Mucuna the nickname of “the dopamine bean.” In fact, Mucuna is so rich in L-dopa that it's been studied and used as an alternative treatment for Parkinson's disease.
Aside from its dopaminergic effects, Mucuna is known to have many other health benefits. It has been used to promote muscle growth, and increase strength. It’s been proven to raise levels of testosterone. It can help reduce menstrual discomfort in women and increase sperm motility in men. Mucuna may also help decrease psychological stress and increase sex drive. It's often used to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.
In a world that is largely overstimulated, it makes sense that many people are suffering from dopamine imbalances. However, for many of us it may not make much sense to do a dopamine fast and refrain from anything dopamine-related for days on end.
Instead, try cutting down on overstimulating, over-gratifying behaviors. Incorporate activities like proper sleep and regular exercise to promote dopamine production naturally. Lastly, potent tonic herbs like mucuna pruriens can help support healthy dopamine levels and mood, in addition to providing many other health benefits.Make sure to check out Mucuna Extract in the Hyperion Herbs Store, as well as my other favorite herbs for Cognitive Support. Thanks for reading!