How to get motivated. How to 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 my top 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 like caffeine, alcohol, sugar, shopping, sex and gambling – all 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, apathy – all of that 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-tyrosine:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Eggs
  • Green Tea
  • Milk
  • Watermelon
  • Yoghurt/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 (and dopamine is also released after any effort on something)

For example in my video where you see me put this all to the test by attempting to get into the North Sea (in December) for the first time, I am focusing on the rewards – what I will get out of it and how it will feel.

For this (potentially unpleasant!) task I focus on how I’ll feel from the achievement and challenge of it.  I also did my research so know that I’ll get the added benefit of a natural high via a shot of endorphins, serotonin and yes dopamine. I also know it’s thought to be good for my 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


Tip3: 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.

So for me as part of the preparation for going into the North Sea, I bought myself some neoprene gloves and booties to keep my hands and feet from literally freezing, and my partner was on the beach starting a fire to sit in front of as soon as we got out. We also had some cakes and hot tea in a flask.

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.

So that’s it – my top three tips. If you’ve found it useful please sign up to my newsletter to receive more videos, and share with anyone you think might benefit from it.

This is my follow-on blog & video called “How to get out of your comfort zone (and why it’s good for you)” – if you didn’t catch that you can read or watch it here

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