How to get and stay motivated. Dopamine is key.

Ever struggle to get motivated to start, or keep going, with something new or difficult in your life?

If you want to know why you’ve failed, what's going on in that brain of yours, and what to do about it, read on as I share three (neuroscience-backed) tips for fool-proof motivation.

Tip 1 - boost your dopamine levels

Dopamine is the feel good neurotransmitter in the brain.

It has been dubbed the Kim Kardashian of neurotransmitters; it’s the sexy one, the one we’re all chasing through addictions to caffeine, alcohol, sugar, shopping, sex and gambling – all of which give us a big boost.

It is also known as the ‘motivation molecule’ as it boosts your levels of drive, focus and attention and if you have low levels you’ll feel, amongst other things, a lack of joy and zest for life, and really won’t feel motivated to do or achieve much and will be prone to procrastination and apathy. These are unhelpful feelings when it comes to getting things done.

Many of us have low levels of dopamine due to poor diet and nutrition. It’s made from the amino acid l-tyrosine which is commonly found in protein-rich foods, so if you want to boost your levels with food here are some foods that contain high levels of l-tyrosene:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Eggs
  • Green Tea
  • Milk
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt/kefir

Alongside what we eat, what we do can also have a huge effect on our levels. Top dopamine-boosting activities are:

  • Exercise
  • Sex/physical touch
  • Meditation
  • Listening to music (so dancing to music will give you a double boost)
  • Creative hobbies – such as crafting and knitting (clearly explaining the explosion of crafts in this country)

Tip 2 – make it rewarding 

As humans we are hard-wired for pleasure  - it’s our brain’s way of getting us to do things to survive. That’s why eating, sex and making money all trigger dopamine.

So this is where the dopamine comes in again, this time because it is also in charge of our pleasure/reward centre. So what will motivate us, and keep us motivated, is focusing on the rewards of what we want to achieve, the benefits, the good stuff we’ll get from all of this effort and energy. Dopamine is also released after putting any effort into something.

It’s also thought to be good for the immune system, great for skin and cellulite, and is said to improve your sex life by releasing an extra dose of oestrogen.

And if what you are wanting to achieve isn’t that rewarding in itself (but just has to get done), then add on something that is – that will give you that boost.

Tip 3 - make it easy

In our brain we’re also constantly doing a calculation between how rewarding it is and how difficult – so again, to work with the brain – we need to make whatever we’re doing be and feel as easy as possible.

This is also why people talk about breaking things down into small manageable chunks and just taking one small step at a time – this again is about making it easy and manageable so you actually do it.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London EC1A & W1G
Written by Sue Belton, Leadership & Career Coach, PgD, CPCC, PCC
London EC1A & W1G

Sue Belton works with people who feel unsatisfied with their lives and careers. She helps them get clarity about what will make them truly happy and fulfilled, and then helps them create more meaningful lives. Sue has been working as a life coach for ten years.

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