Accurate Education – Dopamine Enhancement

Dopamine Enhancement

Based on the concept of the Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS), in which it is believed that an underlying deficiency of dopamine in the midbrain is the basis of a multitude of medical conditions and accompanies many others, methods of enhancing dopamine levels are encouraged to offset the symptoms and manifesttions of RDS.
 
 
See also:

Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

Dopamine Diet

Synaptamine

Using the Mind

 

and:

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
 – Norman Vincent Peale

 

Dopamine Enhancement

Humans are reward-driven creatures. Our behaviors are in large part driven by the reward obtained and that reward is a sense of well-being and contentment. We have fundamental drives to eat which rewards us with satiation and for sex which provides us with pleasure. Current understanding of the neurobiology of reward proposes that in our midbrain there is a reward center, the nucleus accumbens (NAc), which is largely maintained by dopamine. When dopamine levels in the NAc are sufficient, a person will have feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction.
  
It follows that when dopamine levels are insufficient in the NAc, there will be a lack of adequate reward perception, accompanied by lack of fulfillment that may not actually be perceived consciously yet may underly drives towards behaviors that may replenish dopamine levels. This is the basis of the Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS), a condition that underlies or accompanies many health conditions including chronic pain, binge eating, sugar cravings, behaviors such as gambling and computer gaming and chemical addictions.
 
While it is arguably over-simplistic to reduce one’s sense of well-being to the levels of one neurotransmitter, dopamine, it is not to say that mood is not a major component as well. Depression is believed to be markedly influenced by the balance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline, again an over-simplification. The value in these neurotransmitter models is that they provide us tools for the understanding of how we may modify our conditions not just with the use medications, diet and food supplements but also with activities and behaviors that may support and enhance our well-being.
 
To this end, the medications, supplements and dietary interventions are covered elsewhere on this web site. Here we cover activities that may enhance well-being and improve neurotransmitter levels including dopamine and serotonin. Though the use of medications may provide even remarkable benefits, they are never the complete answer and often fall far short of being even an adequate answer to the conditions associated with RDS.
 

Simple Activities to Enhance Dopamine Levels in the Brain

Research suggests that certain activities are associated with increasing dopamine levels including fasting, meditation, physical exercise, yoga, massage and obtaining adequate sleep. These are activities that are all basic, health-supportive means of sustaining good mental and physical health and are part of the big picture that sustains dopamine.

 

Pleasure

Pleasurable activities are rewarding. When lives become over-stressed and busy with multiple demands being placed on one’s time, it is easy to delay or post-pone activities that are fun, or that one enjoys. They may be perceived as self-indulgent or just plain selfish or not as essential or important as the other demands. But it is nevertheless all the more valuabe during these times that one spends a little time for one’s self to replenish your energy, your peace of mind. Keep it simple if needed and it doesn’t require a great deal of time but the neurobiologic results will be sustaining.

 

Goal-Directed Activities

Activities that provide a sense of accomplishment such as achieving a goal have been shown to help maintain or increase brain dopamine levels. For example, making a list at the beginning of each day or week of things that need to be done, and physically checking them off as they are completed, provides a deceptively valuable sense of accomplishment and boost in dopamine. Again, these activities do not need to be complex or time consuming. It is also important to take a moment to praise yourself for job well done – you deserve it and you will be rewarded! 

 

Become Creative, Experiencing Creative

Getting your creative juices flowing is a great way to naturally increase your self-reward. If you already have explored areas of creativity that you relate to, such as creative writing, painting, making sculpture, dancing or playing music, spend more time at it. If you have not engaged yourself in a creative activity before – start! It is likely there is something you have considered exploring in the past – maybe ceramics, glass blowing, building things, restoring things – do it!  It feels good, you will achieve goals and you will become inspired. But keep it light, take it easy so that you don’t become over-self critical. As one becomes involved in creative activity and gets into a creative mode, one often becomes hyper-focused, entering a state reverie where all else is forgotten. This is a very rewarding experience and a strong boost for dopamine levels.

 

Ok, not everyone feels that they are creative. This is an illusion. Everyone has the capacity to create and experience the reward in doing so. Just explore. It is not about whether others appreciate what you do, it is just about you.

 

That being said, the creative experience is not limited to actively creating. It also includes the passive appreciation of creativity. Exploring art in museums or local galleries can be very rewarding for those willing to open themselves to appreciating art. It may not be easy to identify with many contemporary artists’s work, but taking the time and effort to look will inevitably be rewarding – it is out their. This is not limited to the visual arts but also includes the performing arts. If you don’t related to doing it yourself, take time to experience performance art, be it listening to music, going to a play or watching a dance performance. Taking time out of one’s busy life to explore the creative accomplishments of those around us can be rewarding in their inspiration and stimulation.

 

Gardening – Indoor or Outdoor

Gardening can be very rewarding, whether it be an extensive outdoor flower or vegetable garden, or a simple collection of indoor plants or herbs for cooking. As a result of one’s labors there is a tangible, physical reward that can be one of beauty, or one that is tasty, or simply one that provides a sense of accomplishment. Time spent in gardening does not have to be exhaustive or excessively demanding and can be very relaxing and stress reducing as well.

 

Hobbies

Hobbies are a common means of gaining a sense of accomplishment and reward. Re-engaging childhood hobbies or exploring new ones can be enjoyable. Building collections is an underappreciated means to enhancing reward and does not need to be expensive.

 

Pets

I saved the best for last!  For those inclined, pets can be extraordinarily, seemingly infinitely rewarding. It is important to engage some of the simple rewards of life and there is nothing to match a puppy or kitten. As they grow, bonds form between people and their pets and this interaction can be extremely rewarding, often at times when one most needs them. Pets rank high in dopamine enhancement.

See Animal Assisted Therapy

 

One Person’s Perspective on Daily Activities to Avoid Relapse

Have you meditated?

Have you helped someone else?

Have you spoken with someone with more time clean than you?

Have you done yoga?

A person who has done those things will not relapse

Russel Brand

Resources:

  1. www.academyofct.org

 

References:

 

Dopamine Enhancement: Pain

  1. Neuroplasticity
  2. Raising Pain Tolerance Using Guided Imagery
  3. A Multi-Locus Approach to Treating Fibromyalgia by Boosting Dopaminergic Activity in the Meso-Limbic System of the Brain – 2014
  4. Neuroinflammation—a co-occurring phenomenon linking chronic pain and opioid dependence – 2017
  5. Positive emotions and brain reward circuits in chronic pain – 2016

 

Books:

  1. “Your Brain on Pain” by Michael Moskowitz MD

Guided Imagery Recordings:

  1. “Your Brain on Pain” by Michael Moskowitz MD

 

 

Emphasis on Education

 

Accurate Clinic promotes patient education as the foundation of it’s medical care. In Dr. Ehlenberger’s integrative approach to patient care, including conventional and complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments, he may encourage or provide advice about the use of supplements. However, the specifics of choice of supplement, dosing and duration of treatment should be individualized through discussion with Dr. Ehlenberger. The following information and reference articles are presented to provide the reader with some of the latest research to facilitate evidence-based, informed decisions regarding the use of conventional as well as CAM treatments.

 

For medical-legal reasons, access to these links is limited to patients enrolled in an Accurate Clinic medical program.

 

Should you wish more information regarding any of the subjects listed – or not listed –  here, please contact Dr. Ehlenberger. He has literally thousands of published articles to share on hundreds of topics associated with pain management, weight loss, nutrition, addiction recovery and emergency medicine. It would take years for you to read them, as it did him.

 

For more information, please contact Accurate Clinic.

 

 

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