Have You Lost Your Motivation?

7 September, 2016 | Dr Sharon Wilkinson

Lost Motivation? Increase Your Dopamine, Key Motivation Hormone & Neurotransmitter

As a clinical psychologist, I am frequently told by some of my clients that they have lost their motivation. Sadly, losing motivation is quite debilitating and when lost it may be hard to find pleasure or energy to participate in daily life or engage in once previously perceived pleasurable activities.

To get your motivation back, you need to make a little effort in resurrecting it before you start to feel your motivation return.

Unfortunately, if you were to just sit around waiting for your motivation to return suddenly, you may be waiting quite a while.

The Importance of the Neurotransmitter Dopamine

A key player in promoting motivation is one of the neurotransmitters called dopamine.

Neurotransmitters, also known as chemical messengers, function to transmit signals between neurons within the brain and body. Once a neurotransmitter signal has been received, it triggers a reaction that can be either excitatory or inhibitory. If excitatory, there is more likelihood that a signal will continue and will stimulate the brain to activate other neural pathways. However, an inhibitory reaction is known to calm and dissipate quickly.

Dopamine Encourages Both Positive and Negative Behaviour

Dopamine is both inhibitory and excitatory which is why it functions to promote motivation as well as a sense of pleasure and completion. In other words, dopamine provides an emotional reward and can be linked to positive and also negative behaviours. For example, you are more likely to engage in an activity if you have adequate supplies of dopamine to provide a sense of reward or completion. Similarly, you are more liable to continue to participate in an activity if you know that you will experience pleasure or satisfaction through release of dopamine. Sadly, dopamine can also be activated through engaging in habitual activities that promote unhelpful behaviour. In these situations, you may start to find ways to justify the inactivity or avoidance of an accustomed action. It’s easier to buy a takeaway for dinner than to cook a nutritious meal even though it is not as healthy for you and costs more.

Dopamine is essential for your motor function, which is why when depleted, it has been linked to multiple sclerosis. Similarly, low levels of dopamine are present in activities associated with compulsion and perseveration and has been related to OCD.

How do you Increase Dopamine?

Dopamine needs to be manufactured through nutritious food as it is not readily available in the body. To help create dopamine, you will need to examine your nutritional intake and introduce some high-quality protein based foods to your diet. Protein breaks down into an amino acid called Tyrosine, which is then converted into dopamine. Also, don’t forget your vegetables. Vegetables that are rich in folate, i.e. cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli can also increase dopamine levels. Some examples of protein-rich food are beef, chicken, fish, milk, beans, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds.

To increase your levels of dopamine, you will need to start with your food.

It definitely offers food for thought and allows you to have a more thorough understanding of how important dopamine is to your thoughts and actions. Eggs for breakfast anyone?