Think of dopamine as that secret ingredient that takes your favourite dish from 'oh, nice' to 'woah, mind-blowing!'
Dopamine is a neuromodulator essential for how we feel and behave and it's the primary driver of our reward system.
But how can we add more of this special spice to our brains, especially when navigating the dopamine deficiency linked to ADHD?
Thankfully, dopamine levels can be increased naturally, and the goal is to boost our baseline instead of focusing on the peaks.
The big issue with the immediate and short-lived dopamine boosts (like food, video games, buying new stuff) is that once dopamine levels peak, they crash BELOW the baseline after.
Ever heard of a comedown? This is the definition.
Our baseline dopamine levels are core components for our motivation, drive and excitement, regardless of having ADHD or not.
So, if you have ADHD, your goal is to reach healthy sustained increases in dopamine levels both in the peaks and in your dopamine baseline.
10 Natural Ways to Increase Dopamine with ADHD
Knowing how to balance out or increase dopamine levels benefits all kinds of brains.
Check out this scientific insight from Dr Huberman to understand the ins and outs of dopamine control [cheeky little dopamine excursion for you!].
1. Diet: Protein isn't just about the gym gains! 😋 🍜
Eating a diet rich in proteins and L-tyrosine can boost your brain's dopamine.
It's like sending your brain a gourmet meal instead of a fast-food fix.
Swap out the carbs and high-sugar snacks, they'll give you a quick dopamine boost, but you'll crash shortly after.
Protein provides a longer boost and keeps you full.
💡 Top tip: Chuck a few of these in your shopping basket:
- Chicken, beef, fish
- Nuts, seeds and whole grains
2. Exercise: endorphins and dopamine - the hottest couple 🏃 🏊
Regular exercise is another natural dopamine elevator.
Ever heard of runner's high?
That's dopamine and endorphins having a rooftop party in your brain. Exercise also stimulates blood flow to the brain, scientifically proven to help with focus, memory, and mood.
💡 Top tip: The crucial aspect is that you have to enjoy the exercise to get the most dopamine from it.
You might think, “I don’t enjoy exercise!”.
Categorically, sex is considered a form of exercise with a dopamine increase of 2x from baseline. Worth a mention!
Other FUN movement-based activities with the same increased levels include:
- Walking in nature
3. Sunshine: steal those rays & get some Vit D 🌞️ 🌅
Wake up and step outside; vitamin D does wonders for natural dopamine production.
💡 Top tip: If you work at odd times or live somewhere less sunny (e.g. the UK...), you can try sun lamps or vitamin D supplements.
4. Cold showers: turn the heat down 🚿 🥶
Five minutes under a cold shower can shock your neurons and nervous system into action.
At first, you might be squealing, but after a few minutes, you’ll feel the sweet dopamine buzz.
Cold water exposure can increase dopamine levels by up to 2.5x vs baseline.
💡 Top tip: Trust me, I put this off for years, but it does work!
5. Delay the morning coffee ☕ 🕒
Caffeine isn’t as effective as we think it is first thing in the morning.
Your brain needs to go through a natural waking-up cycle before it gets any benefits.
💡 Top tip: Switch the coffee first thing for a cold glass of water and sip the coffee bean juice 90 minutes after.
6. Sleep: focus on the snoozing 😴 💤
ADHD difficulty waking up in the morning is a thing and is also linked to dopamine regulation.
Sleep deprivation can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Revenge sleep procrastination is more common than you’d think. We want more time in our days, so we doom scroll, binge Netflix and stalk our exes on Instagram.
But these quick dopamine fixes lead to sleep deprivation, reducing our dopamine receptor availability.
💡 Top tip: Avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed.
Also, aim to avoid intense exercise 3-4 hours before bedtime.
Elevated blood pressure levels can wake us up and make our brains more alert than sleepy.
7. Break those tasks down! ✅ 🔨
Breaking tasks into smaller, achievable goals can be a powerful strategy.
It's like turning a daunting marathon into a series of satisfying jogs.
Each completed task is a shot of dopamine for your brain, making the next task less intimidating.
That initial dopamine boost can serve as the driving motivation to start other tasks that might feel overwhelming.
💡 Top tip: Try pairing task completion with small rewards such as short breaks and healthy snacks to get an extra boost.
8. Mindfulness: now say, "ohmmmm" 🧘️ 🙏
Meditation is not just for monks on mountaintops or that app you downloaded but totally forgot about.
It's a tool to reduce stress, improve focus, and, yes, even stimulate dopamine production.
Consider it your mindfulness masterclass for the brain.
Yes, it's hard to focus at first, but with a little practice, you'll gain more control and unlock the next level of natural dopamine production.
💡 Pro tip: listening to music also releases dopamine! Binaural beats and white or brown noise also increase focus and concentration.
9. Did somebody mention body doubling? 👩 💻
Body doubling, whether in person or online, is when two people with ADHD work together on tasks, often independently.
It's like having a dopamine buddy beside you, ensuring you’re less likely to dip or lose focus.
ADHD coworking, especially in this era of remote work, can help you maintain focus and feel more motivated.
It can increase dopamine levels.
ADHD Body doubling online can be a game-changer.
It's like having a crime partner while planning the ultimate dopamine heist.
Knowing someone else is also working can make tasks more rewarding and help turn up the volume on your dopamine levels.
Want to easily find a partner? Try Deepwrk's online body doubling app to focus better and achieve more, together.
If you live in the UK the government’s Access to Work ADHD grant can cover ADHD body doubling expenses.
10. Supplements & medication 💊 💊
Supplements have been proven beneficial in mitigating ADHD symptoms and helping natural dopamine production.
You can try popping a few into your daily diet to help move the process.
But listen, we’re not doctors.
Please consult a medical professional before changing your medication or supplement intake! We’re all different, and supplements may not always result in the desired results depending on your health.
Here are some to ask your doc about:
- Vitamin D3
- Lion’s Mane
While not everyone with ADHD will need or choose medication, they are an option to explore if needs must.
Stimulants are designed to increase dopamine, thus resulting in more focus and enjoyment doing the stuff you don’t like so much!
Some to ask your diagnosing psychiatrist about:
- And the non-stimulant Atomoxetine
Remember, the goal is to find ways to enjoy every move, every beat, and every moment of your unique ADHD journey.
Lifestyle modifications can increase our dopamine baseline levels which can help us be more motivated, excited, and driven—generally improving our quality of life.
Most of them are zero cost and can help you avoid that pesky ADHD tax.
They can’t cure ADHD, but they’ll help you feel a tad better!
💡Bonus tip: ADHD and social media don't mix well. Try to cut down on screen time, as it can overstimulate you. A digital dopamine detox can do wonders to elevate your dopamine sensitivity.
Level Up That Dopamine
Across our dopamine and ADHD blog series, we've dug into the link between the two, understanding why we crave those sweet dopamine hits.
We’ve explored the signs of dopamine deficiency - those subtle whispers your body sends when your dopamine levels are depleted.
We’ve explored the natural ways to boost dopamine.
From body doubling to mindful meditation, from breaking tasks into manageable bites to adopting a dopamine-friendly diet, we've equipped you with many strategies to help keep your dopamine levels on track.
Speaking of ways to boost dopamine, have you already tried Deepwrk's body doubling website?
The app boosting task completion and motivation, making tasks more enjoyable and engaging. Learn how body doubling app works.
It facilitates dopamine release by introducing gentle social accountability.
Join us to connect with a community that understands your unique ADHD journey.