How to unlock a healthy dopamine high

by Patrick Ibsen on Sunday 10 December 2023

4 min read

Dopamine, often labelled the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, plays a vital role in our mental and physical wellbeing. It’s not just about getting high on your own body’s supply, though. It’s important to have sustainable “dopamine habits” that nourish the mind and body, time and time again. Nurturing a healthy balance of dopamine release through constructive activities can lay the foundation for a more fulfilled and mentally resilient life.

What is a dopamine release?

When released in the brain's reward centre, dopamine contributes to feelings of satisfaction and reinforces behaviours associated with pleasure. Beyond its role in pleasure, dopamine serves as a crucial messenger influencing various aspects of our mental and physical health. It plays a vital role in motivation, affecting our ability to focus, set and achieve goals, and experience a sense of reward when accomplishing tasks.

How does it affect our overall wellbeing?


Dopamine plays a crucial role in mood regulation, acting as a critical factor in maintaining a stable emotional state. Ideal dopamine levels improve productivity, enhancing motivation and the ability to concentrate on tasks. It assists in memory formation and retention, positively impacting our brain power. It aids in better sleep patterns, influencing the sleep-wake cycle, which can help improve your relaxation levels.

Why it’s essential to focus on healthy dopamine releases

Studies show, having too much or too little dopamine is linked to mental and physical illness, including depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and attention deficit disorders. Emphasising healthy dopamine release fosters the establishment of solid boundaries and effective coping mechanisms, supporting resilience and stress management.

Maintaining balance can cultivate emotional regulation. Therefore, engaging in activities that promote a balanced and sustained dopamine response will help improve your overall health and well-being.

Ways you can healthily release dopamine


Exercising

Exercise is a strong dopamine releaser, promoting a sense of euphoria often termed the “runner's high”. Engaging in mind-body practices such as Yoga or Reformer Pilates are other notable dopamine boosters, elevating mood and fostering a sense of well-being.

Environmental influences and diet

Exposure to sunlight, indulging in healthy treats like dark chocolate, and maintaining a well-balanced diet with plenty of spicy dishes are all great boosters. Even cold exposure through showers or immersions can trigger dopamine release.

Being kind to your mind

Practising meditation or mindfulness stimulates dopamine production, contributing to feelings of calmness and contentment. Laughter, expressing gratitude, and listening to music are fantastic ways to boost dopamine.

Final thoughts

As we engage in activities that promote a balanced dopamine response, it's crucial to remember the value of rest and recovery in this journey. Adequate rest allows the mind and body to recharge, fostering a healthier dopamine balance and overall well-being. At Virgin Active, we have numerous ways you can prioritise rest and recovery in your pursuit of a fulfilling life.

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