Meditation increases your dopamine levels. And you don’t even have to take our word for it, because this is actually backed by science.
What is dopamine and why is it important?
Humans have over a hundred different neurotransmitters in our brain. Dopamine is one of those neurotransmitters. Think of dopamine as a chemical messenger; it is what is responsible for experiencing motivation. When we learn something new, accomplish a task, or get a promotion at work, for example, it is thanks to dopamine that we get that sense of satisfaction. Dopamine is also involved in our ability to concentrate on something, so we need it in order to be productive.
How can you tell if you have a dopamine deficiency?
It is possible to have a dopamine deficiency. This often results in symptoms such as:
- Inability to focus
- Lack of motivation
- Sugar cravings
- Trouble sleeping
Of course, these symptoms can also be contributed to other conditions or deficiencies. However, if you can’t pinpoint a cause, it might very well be that you’re low on dopamine.
Low dopamine and unhealthy behaviour
It is human nature to look for an easy solution. People often resort to a quick ‘dopamine fix’ in the form of caffeine, nicotine, sugar or other stimulants. Aside from the fact that these substances only provide a very temporary effect (and could even result to decreased dopamine levels in the long run!), they are very unhealthy and frequently lead to addictive behaviour. However, there are also healthy, natural ways to boost dopamine production in the brain. Meditation is one of them.
Science says that meditation increases your dopamine levels
A 2002 study from the John F. Kennedy Institute in Denmark found that participants that had developed a habit of regular meditation, showed a 65 percent increase in dopamine levels after meditating for one hour. And the increases seemed to have a sustainable effect, because they were also recorded when the participants were not meditating. Meditating regularly, the scientists concluded, seems to provide a ‘natural high’ without the crash that comes with the use of unhealthy stimulants like caffeine or sugar.
It is known that meditation increases the connectivity between the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for making decisions and controlling impulses) and the dopamine pathways in the limbic system (the parts of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses). But how it works exactly, is not fully clear yet.
More research is needed to determine whether it is only experienced meditators get the dopamine-boosting effects, or that beginners benefit from it as well. One thing is for sure though: it can’t hurt to give it a shot. Here are 5 meditation techniques for beginners to try.