I don’t even have to ask the question…I know all of you know someone that is simply genetically blessed. They don’t exercise, they don’t watch what they eat but they always look great. Then there is the person that just has to take a day off, or look sideways at that piece of cake and they gain 5 pounds. From body shape, to hair colour, it is easy to see the outward display of genetics at work.
But it’s also important to realize that the inside of our bodies are as unique as the outside. You probably also know that person who never misses a workout, or rarely eats junk food and makes it seem easy. It’s like they eat motivation for breakfast. It may be that this person is also genetically blessed with what psychologists refer to as low activation energy.
This is actually a term used by chemists to describe the minimum amount of energy required to initiate a chemical reaction, but it’s been adapted by psychologists to describe the motivation required to begin a task. When there are too many hurdles in place, and when our motivation isn’t sufficient to overcome those hurdles, we’ll choose something easier to do if we have high activation energy.
And our dopamine levels are directly linked to this activation energy.
Dopamine is a molecule in the brain and body that is closely linked to our sense of motivation. It can also enhance our depth of focus and lower our threshold for taking action toward specific goals. The simplest way to think about dopamine is that when our dopamine levels are elevated, we tend to focus our attention on outward goals — the things we want — and we feel motivated to pursue them. When our dopamine is low, well we feel like our get up and go has got up and gone.
If you feel like you have high activation energy (it takes a lot to get you up and moving) then perhaps these next tips from neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, will help you manage dopamine levels to enhance motivation.
1) Get enough quality sleep as this restores your baseline level of dopamine, and do not take melatonin supplements as these can disrupt dopamine levels, and natural sleep.
2) Ingest caffeine (approximately 100-400mg) in the form of coffee, tea or whatever form you prefer. This will cause a mild increase in dopamine but also increases the availability of dopamine receptors, so your body is more sensitive to circulating dopamine.
3) Eat tyrosine rich foods such as red meat, hard cheese, nuts and other foods. Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a precursor to dopamine.
4) Viewing early morning sunlight for 10-30 minutes daily. (Don’t wear sunglasses for this, and don’t stare at the sun; eyeglasses and contacts are acceptable). This causes the release of dopamine. And avoid viewing bright lights between 10 p.m.-4 a.m. This is essential, as it has been shown to activate a brain region called the habenula and drastically reduce the amount of circulating dopamine in your system.
5) Movement of all kinds increase your levels of dopamine. Cardiovascular exercise or resistance training both work at elevating and maintaining a baseline level of dopamine.
6) And the do as I say, not as I do tip of the day! lol. Cold water exposure. It has been proven to elevate your dopamine levels for hours. And so if you can handle it, a cold shower in the morning will do wonders for your motivation!