Demystifying Hormones: 5 Ways for How To Increase Dopamine and Other Feel Good Hormones to Reduce Stress and Increase Happiness

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Do you ever feel like your motivation and enthusiasm could be improved? Do you struggle to find pleasure in the things that used to bring joy? If so, it may be time for you to learn how to increase dopamine levels.

Dopamine is a hormone released when we experience pleasure or accomplish a goal. It’s associated with feelings of motivation, satisfaction, and pleasure. Although dopamine is commonly mentioned, it is often confused with other feel good hormones that contribute to feeling happy and motivated.

This article will dive deep into what dopamine is and how to increase dopamine levels naturally. We will also discuss the science behind all feel good hormones and how they affect our emotions to understand why increasing these hormone levels is key to maintaining overall emotional and physical wellbeing.

Understanding Dopamine

Dopamine has a long and fascinating history. It was first discovered in 1958 by two scientists, Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp, who observed that dopamine plays a crucial role in regulating movement in rats. Over time, researchers uncovered its effect on other areas of human behavior, such as motivation, reward seeking, learning, memory formation, decision-making, and even emotional processing.

So what is dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger that transmits signals between nerve cells.

Often referred to as the “reward hormone,” dopamine is released when we experience pleasure or accomplish a goal. It’s associated with feelings of motivation, satisfaction, and joy. This reward system encourages us to seek out behaviors that release more dopamine into the brain – whether it’s eating delicious food or exercising – so we can experience those feel-good sensations again!

But dopamine affects much more than just pleasure-seeking; it also has an important role when it comes to emotions and physical attributes.

Emotions Regulated by Dopamine:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Happiness
  • Motivation
  • Pleasure
  • Satisfaction
  • Excitement
  • Anticipation
  • Concentration
  • Memory recall and formation

Physical Attributes Regulated by Dopamine:

  • Metabolism rate
  • Sleep quality
  • Blood pressure
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Appetite and hunger levels
  • Memory formation and recall
  • Motivation and focus
  • Stress response and management
  • Emotional regulation (mood swings)
  • Libido/sexual desire

For example, low levels of this hormone have been linked with depression. In contrast, high levels may result in feelings of mania.

Dopamine is responsible for many processes in the body, so keeping levels of dopamine within a healthy range is imperative to feeling regulated and happy.

What Does Dopamine Deficiency Look Like?

A dopamine deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways. It may be hard to recognize since many of the symptoms are subtle.

Some common signs include:

  • Lacking motivation
  • Having difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Feeling little joy from activities that used to bring pleasure
  • Irritability
  • Apathy towards life events
  • Lack of energy and enthusiasm for everyday life tasks such as work or hobbies
  • Poor sleep quality or an inability to fall asleep easily

Additionally, there may also be physical symptoms associated with a dopamine deficiency.

Common physical symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite (either increased hunger or decreased)
  • Low libido/sexual desire
  • Digestive issues.

These symptoms can significantly impact our daily lives, making it difficult to experience joy from things we once found fulfilling, like spending time with family and friends. This is why learning how to increase dopamine levels can make such a huge impact in our lives.

It’s important to note that these feelings are normal when experienced individually. If these feelings persist, it could indicate medical conditions, such as a dopamine deficiency, that require medical treatment.

How to Increase Dopamine Production?

Increasing dopamine can be done by making some fairly simple lifestyle changes. You likely have heard some of these examples before, but let’s dive deeper into why these actions increase dopamine so you can choose which examples will work best for you.

1. Exercise: 

Incorporating interval training or high-intensity workouts specifically can further boost dopamine levels. In general, exercise releases other feel good hormones like endorphins and serotonin, making it a triple threat for reducing stress and increasing happiness! We will discuss other feel good hormones in detail in a bit.

2. Improve Sleep Hygiene: 

A good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and wellbeing, and it has been linked to increased dopamine levels. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies become fatigued, and we lack motivation and enthusiasm for everyday tasks – this happens because when we are tired, our bodies produce less dopamine.

Aiming for 8 hours of quality sleep each night can help replenish the body’s low dopamine stores and ensure you wake up refreshed and energized. However, getting a solid 8 hours of rest isn’t always possible due to work schedules, having young children to take care of, or medical issues like chronic insomnia.

A good place to start is by making the best of the sleep you get. Here are a few things to try to increase the quality of your sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Improve your REM cycle by getting morning and evening sun to help regulate your circadian rhythm
  • Try to set an evening routine to let your brain know its time to wind down
  • Wear comfortable clothing and keep a cooler temperature in your bedroom to encourage deep sleep

3. Eat Dopamine Boosting Foods: 

Eating certain foods can help to naturally increase your dopamine levels. Foods that contain amino acids such as tyrosine (found in egg yolks, nuts, and legumes) have been associated with boosting dopamine levels in the brain. Other foods, like blueberries, are known to stimulate dopamine release from existing stores in the body.

Here is a list of some foods known to help boost and release dopamine within the body:

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Avocados, Bananas, Apples
  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, Mackerel
  • Lean Proteins: Chicken breast or turkey
  • Whole Grains: Oats and Brown Rice
  • Dark Chocolate (with 70% cocoa or higher)
  • Legumes: Beans, Lentils
  • Leafy Greens such as Spinach
  • Fermented Foods such as Yogurt or Kefir

Incorporating these foods into your healthy diet, can help provide your body with the essential nutrients to create more dopamine naturally, making you feel more energized throughout the day.

It is important to consult a doctor before making dietary changes if you suffer from chronic issues with gut health, like Crohn’s disease, as this may limit the foods you can add to your diet.

4. Stimulate Your Brain: 

Activities that stimulate your brain’s reward system can help increase dopamine levels, such as playing video games or listening to music. These activities cause chemical reactions in the brain that trigger the release of feel good hormones like endorphins and serotonin, leading to increased dopamine production over time due to its role in pleasure-seeking behavior.

Other activities like reading or learning a new skill have also been effective at stimulating the brain and raising dopamine levels naturally.

5. Spend Time With Friends & Family: 

Spending time with friends & family is not only enjoyable, but quality time with loved ones has also been associated with increased production of several hormones, including serotonin, oxytocin, & endorphins – all of which contribute to feelings of happiness & contentment. 

This effect is thought to be due in part to increased activity within reward pathways in response to positive social interaction – leading ultimately to higher levels of circulating dopamine throughout the body & mind!

Increasing one’s level of Dopamine production is essential for overall emotional balance. Dopamine helps regulate our moods so that we can thrive both emotionally and physically throughout daily life tasks.

It’s important for individuals suffering from depression or low motivation due to decreased levels of this hormone to seek professional help if symptoms persist after making dietary changes or engaging in regular physical activity. These methods alone may not restore balance within a person’s neurochemical system. Consulting a mental health specialist could offer additional insight into what other strategies could be used if facing a dopamine deficiency.

Other Feel Good Hormones That Help You Feel Happy

We often hear about how to increase dopamine. Still, many don’t realize that there are other feel good hormones at play in our bodies that contribute to how we think. Understanding that each hormone plays a unique role in our overall health and wellbeing is important. Understanding each hormone’s importance can help us make better decisions regarding managing our emotions and overall mental and physical health.

Many of the suggestions to increase these individual hormones will overlap. This means one action could increase multiple feel good hormones inside the body simultaneously. So take note of these overlapping suggestions, and work smarter, not harder!

In addition to dopamine, here are other feel good hormones:

  • Serotonin
  • Endorphins
  • Oxytocin

In the next few sections, we’ll look at some more feel good hormones so you have a better understanding of how they work together for your benefit.

Serotonin: The Happiness Hormone

Serotonin is known as the “happiness hormone” because it contributes to feelings of wellbeing and contentment. It’s also important for regulating mood, sleep, and appetite.

Low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues such as panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Responsibilities of serotonin include:

  • Regulating appetite
  • Controlling emotions such as aggression
  • Promoting positive feelings of wellbeing
  • Helping with learning processes by encoding memories
  • Regulating circadian rhythms that govern the sleep/wake cycle
  • Aiding in bone formation
  • Controlling muscle contractions, including those involved in sexual activity

Ways to Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally:

Exercise regularly: Exercise helps improve mood by releasing endorphins that promote better sleeping patterns and naturally increase serotonin levels over time.

Spend Time in Nature: Spending time outdoors can help reduce chronic stress levels while increasing sunlight exposure, which boosts serotonin production within the body due to its role in governing our circadian rhythm.

Eat Healthy Foods: Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, has been associated with increased production of both dopamine & serotonin within the brain. Additionally, nutrient-dense meals packed full off.

Endorphins: The Runner's High

Endorphins are hormones naturally released by the body that act as natural painkillers and mood enhancers in response to pain or stress. They’re often associated with the “runner’s high” and other exercise-induced euphoria.

Responsibilities of endorphins include:

  • Relieving physical pain
  • Reducing stress & anxiety levels
  • Increasing overall energy
  • Promoting positive feelings of wellbeing
  • Enhancing concentration & focus

Ways to Increase Endorphin Levels Naturally:

Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins that help reduce stress levels while increasing your energy levels for improved mood and overall health. This can be anything from going for a walk to doing high-intensity workouts like running or cycling.

Laugh More: Laughter has been known to increase endorphin production within the body due to its ability to stimulate pleasure centers in the brain.

Listen To Music: Listening to music is a great way to naturally increase endorphin levels as it has been proven to stimulate brain areas responsible for producing these hormones. Additionally, certain types of music can help reduce stress levels & improve moods which further promotes endorphin production.

Meditate: Meditating for even a few minutes a day can help reduce stress & anxiety while stimulating the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins. It has also been associated with improved concentration, focus & clarity, making it an ideal activity for those looking to make long-lasting lifestyle changes!

Yoga: Like meditation, yoga helps reduce stress levels and promote feelings of wellbeing due to its ability to stimulate endorphin release in response to physical activity. It has also been shown to help improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue, which further promotes endorphin production within the body.

Oxytocin: The Love Hormone

Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” because it’s released in response to social interaction or touch from someone you care about. It helps promote trust and empathy while increasing our ability to bond with others.

Responsibilities of oxytocin include:

Promoting feelings of love & empathy

Enhancing social interaction

Increasing levels of trust between individuals

Helping bond mothers with their infants

Aiding in sexual arousal

Ways To Increase Oxytocin Levels Naturally:

Spend Time With Friends: Spending time with friends and engaging in meaningful conversations can help increase oxytocin levels naturally. This is due to the hormone’s role in promoting social interaction and building strong relationships.

Take A Warm Bath: A warm bath or shower has been associated with increased oxytocin production as it helps relax the body & mind while also stimulating the release of this feel-good hormone.

Exercise: Exercise has been known to stimulate oxytocin production within the body due to its ability to reduce stress levels & promote feelings of contentment.

Cuddle With Pets: Cuddling with pets has increased oxytocin production due to its ability to provide comfort & companionship. Additionally, being around animals has been known to reduce your stress hormone levels, further stimulating this hormone’s release within the body.

This is a huge benefit for those who have emotional support animals.

Give Hugs: Giving hugs is a great way to naturally increase oxytocin since it helps promote feelings of trust & closeness between two individuals. This improves overall bonding while also helping reduce stress levels.


Knowing how to increase dopamine production is an important part of maintaining healthy levels of hormones in the body. With a combination of tips to boost dopamine levels, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and balanced nutrition, you can naturally increase dopamine production over time.

Just like utilizing techniques to activate the parasympathetic to calm your nervous system can reduce anxiety, increasing the feel good hormones serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins can similarly positively affect your daily life. Take note of activities you can add to your daily routines to ensure you get these important mood boosters daily.

Remember to discuss any changes you plan on making to your diet or lifestyle with your doctor before starting them so they can determine if it’s right for you. Taking steps towards improving our mental health is essential for having better relationships and understanding how others feel – both of which are aided by increased dopamine production!

If your symptoms of low motivation or poor mood do not decrease over time after utilizing the tips mentioned in this article, or if you would like emotional support during your process, speaking to a licensed therapist can greatly benefit your healing journey. Give us a call or make an appointment today to take the first step to feeling your best!

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Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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