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6 Ways to Feel Motivated, Focused and Joyful

It's not uncommon to feel a lack of motivation, focus, desire and joy at some point in our lives and, in fact, it's normal and productive to naturally take a break from constantly doing things all of the time the promote dopamine production. There come points, however, when we just can't find that boost we used to experience and what motivated us or brought us joy in the past no longer feels as exciting or desirable. What's actually occurring when this happens and how can we get it back or at least prevent that slump from occurring so often? What leads us to feel more motivated and focused within our body? What is it that provides us with that innate desire and willingness to push through challenging circumstances?


Obviously, there are some things that we simply outgrow as we get older because our values change, our perspectives shift or our needs and desires just aren't the same as they used to be. In which case, it might be appropriate to engage in something different for personal growth and to trust our inner guidance that it is time to let go what we used to enjoy in the past and shift into something new or challenging that will assist us further. As far as the information on here goes, it is more for those who are wondering why the simple joys and pleasures in life have shifted, for those who wake up unmotivated in general and disconnected from themselves or from those they love. It is for those who just don't feel joy as often as they know they can feel or as motivated to accomplish much in general.


The answer to what we are looking for to assist in this rebalancing, is a neuromodulator by the name of dopamine. In my opinion, dopamine is pretty much everything. I have recently started intentionally paying attention to my dopamine levels and because of the immediate and palpable shift, I became extremely inspired (and motivated with joy and focus :)...) to share my findings. So here they are.


What exactly does dopamine do for our conscious experience?

Dopamine is a monoamine which is one of the primary molecules that are classified as shaping our consciousness (other monoamines are serotonin and norepinephrine). Evolutionarily, dopamine is the universal currency of foraging, seeking and pleasure. It is what will provide pleasure in the short term and extend the species in the long term as it provides a purpose to leave the community in search of a dopamine boost through finding food and water. It is also released during sex, which is obviously a motivating factor to procreate.

  • Dopamine is connected to the parasympathetic state (rest and digest), which in turn plays a role in broadening our focus and awareness

  • It has to do with enjoying life

  • It is the motivator for seeking out and experiencing pleasure and reward

  • It opens our blood vessels, allows for better blood flow and greater awareness for sensation and pleasurable sensation

  • It has to do with desire, willingness to push through, drive, craving, motivation and time perception

  • When we have a lot of drive to do stuff or no drive at all, it relies on the amount of dopamine in our brain

We all have a set amount of dopamine that is unique to us, which is usually genetic, while also being completely within our control. Ideally, we want to have a moderate baseline of dopamine in our brain at all times. When our dopamine spikes too high, there will inevitably be a drop below our normal baseline, which leads to feelings of depression, lack of motivation, focus and desire. If we continue to bring the level of dopamine to a peak, then throughout time, we won't experience the same levels of joy for the activities we are doing that raises our dopamine. The key is to raise our baseline levels and keep it there without peaking so it doesn't drop. But how do we do that effectively? By becoming self-aware of our mind, attitude and emotions and taking time to tune-in to the subtle and/or profound shifts that occur as we implement the suggestions in this article, amongst other suggestions that could be of benefit from other resources. From there, we're more able to make the adjustments necessary to keep our personal baseline in the right place. It is a daily commitment and takes awareness and it is well worth the extra effort.


What're some ways dopamine is increased?

Chocolate- increases dopamine by 1.5x

Sex both persuit and act- increases dopamine by 2x

Nicotine- increases dopamine by 2.5x (not suggested)

Cocaine- increases dopamine by 2.5x (not suggested)

Amphetamines- increases dopamine by 10x (not suggested)

Exercise- different impact depending on how much subjectively enjoy it- if love it- 2x above baseline. If dislike it, achieve less dopamine increase or no increase at all

Social media

Caffeine makes you able to experience more of the dopamine effects by increasing the number of receptors

Working through something hard (with relationship, studying, work etc) is subjective to how much is released

Listening to music

Meditation

Different herbs


There are other ways that dopamine is released and much of it is personal to what brings you joy and pleasure if they are subjective experiences.


More dopamine is released from an unexpected pleasure than an expected one. The newness factor is what releases the dopamine and addiction plays out by requiring more to get the same boost. An increased amount of dopamine is also released when we combine multiple factors of pleasure into one. For example- listening to music while focusing on a challenging project. Both release dopamine and the listening to music can make it a more joyful experience. If we continue to do this every time we work on something challenging, then we could lose motivation to work hard because we might continuously need something to make it joyful. Therefore, the activity that we used to enjoy doing on some level (even if it is just the reward of accomplishing a challenging task) would become boring, unmotivating to engage in and continue to pursue. The loss of the newness factor as well as the combining of pleasures can be places where we begin to wonder why we don't enjoy the things that used to bring us joy, motivation and/or focus.


5 suggested ways to support dopamine production

Ideally, we want to be cautious of how we increase our levels of dopamine, so we can prevent them from rising too high and dropping, however, it may be necessary to include some tactics and herbs to support us while we are reconstructing our baseline.


1. Try including these herbs:

  • Damiana- the flavonoid present are MAO-B inhibitors which indirectly elevate dopamine. Relaxes blood vessels along with stimulates the flow of energy. Known as the plant of joyful awareness, desire to dance, walk in the woods. Take damiana and dance as a way of reminding the body how to experience pleasure without relying just on outside source. Use as tincture, can be used as a smoking herb when not feeling joy in the world. Combine with brahmi for the best results.

  • Hawthorn- helps with lack of focus and concentration, hyperactivity, helps with ADHD. Used a lot with sensory overload- when being around too many people, fluorescent lights, helps bring down overload. Works well with damiana. Take as a tincture or a tea.

  • Brahmi- bacopa manari- linguistically related to brahma which translates as the "undefined presence of the Divine" and it's the herb that helps to access brahma by opening the subtle perceptions of the mind- it does this by bringing in dopamine production. To be converted to dopamine, it must be decarboxylated which can be done by combining it with an MAO-A inhibitor (Syrian rue, tribulus, passionflower (not as strong as the others).

  • Nasya oil is an Ayurvedic nasal oil that is the traditional way of getting these compounds into body without having to bypass the liver. It commonly contains calamus as well as holy basil which both have an impact on the subtle channels of the brain/mind.

2. Growth mindset- make striving your end goal. Focus on the action of striving instead of rewarding self after accomplishing something. Dopamine will be release inside of the effort if repeated which will help build motivation and joy in the mundane tasks.


3. Social connection is a direct way to stimulations dopamine pathways. This can be romantic, parent-child, friendship, with an animal as well as through heart-centered plant spirit connection and communication.


4. Cold water exposure leads to a large increase in dopamine for a sustained amount of time.


5. Intermittent fasting increases dopamine especially when reinforced with positive communication with body about the importance and benefit of fasting. These can be longer-term or short-term fasts.


6. Intermittent reward schedules- layering dopaminergic activities such as listening to music while at the gym can increase dopamine more than by just doing one at a time. Try just doing one at a time then intermittently adding in another layer that brings more joy to the process, but keep it random so your body doesn't get used to it and therefore requires it to experience pleasure during that activity. When adding in more than one thing at a time, the activity itself can lose its pleasure and motivation to continue it can be lost.


*Disclaimer- I am not a Doctor. Please consult your primary care physician before doing anything suggested in this article. If you have any kind of mental illness, are on any medications or know of any kind of imbalance in your neural system then be sure to especially proceed with caution and work with a professional before making any adjustments.


Sources:

The Huberman Lab

Herbalists Matthew Wood and Sean O'Donohue







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