Let’s talk about dopamine, this little chemical that lives in us and makes us happy.
It’s one of our so-called ‘feel good’ chemicals. It’s a really tiny neurotransmitter that jumps between our nerve cells and activates them.
Dopamine is synthesized in the brain. Consuming it as food is irrelevant since it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. However, tyrosine, one of the molecules it is synthesized from, can cross the blood-brain barrier. So, consuming food rich in tyrosine (e.g. almonds, apples, cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, beans, and whole grains.) helps to prevent dopamine deficiency and to keep a good spirit.
What triggers dopamine release?
Before dopamine can activate the nerve cells it needs to be released. How can this happen? For example, by singing, running and physical activities, by meditation and quiet spiritual time, and by consuming special food. Interestingly, just looking forward to something pleasurable has already an effect.
Enjoy the Rewards
Once we have experienced happiness we want more of it. We like our rewards. We actually take action to move toward receiving our rewards. Our brain is made to show behaviors that release dopamine in the reward system. That’s also why we repeat a behavior or habit that gives us our reward, our natural high.
In other words, our reward system is connected to a behavior or a habit. And we have to reward ourselves with happiness to be able to stick to a habit or develop a new one.
Since our reward system is connected to a habit we have to reward ourselves to develop a new habit. Click To Tweet
Reward System Pathway
Sometimes we are confused because we are told that dopamine release leads to movement, focus, concentration and memory as well.
And while this is all really cool we ask how this fits with our reward system?
Truth is, it doesn’t!
Dopamine simply activates more than just one pathway in our brain.
The pathways that lead to increased movement, focus and memory are different from the pathway that activates our reward system. Dopamine activates all of them. However, the answer and outcome to the dopamine activation are different.
So, to finish my short post of today allow me one scientific sentence for the ones who want to know the reward system pathway, also called mesolimbic dopamine pathway, in more scientific detail:
The reward system pathway connects the ventral tegmental area (VTA), one of the principal dopamine-producing areas in the brain, with the nucleus accumbens, an area found in the ventral striatum that is strongly associated with motivation and reward.
Courtesy of knowingneurons.com
Reap the Rewards
Everyone is talking about dopamine but not everyone knows exactly what it is.
I hope today you could get to know it a little bit more.
I’m not claiming that have explained all there is to dopamine.
After all, it is a very useful, wonderful but still complex little friend.
Important is to see its connection to our reward system and habit development.
Important is to make use of it.