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The Science Behind Procrastination and What to Do About It

You probably know the feeling – you put off a tedious or difficult task and instead turn your attention to something more enjoyable. Perhaps you open Instagram, and after a minute or two of swiping, you immediately feel more energized. There’s science behind that pleasure hit. When you’re doing something that you like, your body releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. The same applies to procrastinating — when you put off something you don’t want to do, the brain rewards you by releasing dopamine. Avoiding the task feels better than actually doing it. 

But what if you could manipulate the amount of dopamine that your body produces, so you have enough to keep you motivated and focused, even when doing those unpleasant tasks?

Learn how dopamine works and the best ways to increase dopamine so you can overcome procrastination and get stuff done. 

What Does Dopamine Do? 

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger in the body that allows nerve cells to communicate with each other. 

Various parts of the brain produce dopamine, namely the substantia nigra, located deep in the center of the brain, as well as in the adjacent ventral tegmental area. [1]https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2016/9730467/

Dopamine plays a major role in numerous brain functions, including motivation, mood, pleasure, motor control, and reward.[2]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15701239/ [3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24259638/ 

When you do something pleasurable, your body releases dopamine, making you feel good. These positive feelings motivate you to repeat the behavior.[4]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29142296/  

When your body isn’t producing enough dopamine, you may feel less motivated and more prone to procrastination. 

Low Dopamine Symptoms 

When your brain isn’t releasing enough dopamine, not only does your focus and motivation take a hit, but your whole system may suffer. Some symptoms of low dopamine may include: 

  • Lack of motivation 
  • Brain fog
  • Apathy
  • Low energy
  • Struggle to focus 
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and cramps 
  • Constipation

Low dopamine is also linked to more serious health conditions, including: 

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Obesity
  • Schizophrenia
  • Drug addiction
  • Depression

How to Increase Dopamine 

If you’re looking to break the cycle of procrastination, there are ways to naturally raise dopamine levels in the brain. 

Exercise

There’s a reason you feel happier after working out – exercise has an antidepressant effect, increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061837/  [6]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27003115/ [7]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12758062/

Aerobic exercise like walking, running, and swimming has been shown to increase dopamine levels in numerous brain regions in both men and women.[8]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890/full One study found that one hour of aerobic exercise, five days a week changed the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain, which plays a key role in mediating pleasure and reward.[9]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180809093520.htm 

Even more gentle forms of exercise could raise dopamine levels. A 2014 study found that one hour of yoga a day for a period of three months increased dopamine in men.[10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150910/ 

Diet

What you eat could increase dopamine levels naturally. 

Eat more foods that contain the amino acid L-tyrosine, which is necessary for your body to produce dopamine.[11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26424423/ There’s even something known as the “Dopamine Diet,” based on the idea that eating foods rich in tyrosine boosts your levels of dopamine, improving mood. Foods rich in tyrosine include chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and dairy.[12]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6647184/ 

One study found that eating a high-protein breakfast including eggs and beef helped regulate food cravings and increased dopamine levels compared to a lower protein breakfast. [13]https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-13-80

Other dopamine foods include:

  • Bananas (a common type known as Cavendish has exceptionally high levels of dopamine) [14]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10725161/
  • Green tea 
  • Turmeric[15]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929771/
  • Oregano[16]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21205415/
  • Fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines[17]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9868201/
  • Caffeine

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of focusing on the present moment, training your mind to simply observe thoughts as they come without judgement. 

Research shows cultivating a regular meditation practice could lower depression by producing more dopamine in the brain.[18]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3044190/

In one study, regular meditators experienced a 65% increase in dopamine while meditating. Even when they weren’t meditating, participants showed strong levels of dopamine.[19]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11958969/

The key is to meditate regularly – casual meditators didn’t experience the same dopamine-boosting effects.[20]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26871460/ 

Natural Dopamine Supplements 

Certain supplements have been shown to boost dopamine levels: 

  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a herbal supplement made from the leaves of the ginkgo tree, a tree species native to China. The herb has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. Animal studies show that ginkgo extract increases levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain associated with memory and focus.[21]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828029/ [22]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22784425/
  • Caffeine: If you’re a coffee drinker, you’re likely familiar with the sense of wellbeing you feel after a cup. Caffeine doesn’t actually increase the amount of dopamine in the brain, but rather blocks it from getting reabsorbed in the body.[23]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462609/ You don’t need to drink much to feel the effects – studies show that 300 mg of caffeine (the average amount in 2-3 cups of coffee) was enough to slow down the rate of dopamine reabsorption. 
  • Panax Ginseng: Ginseng is a herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Panax ginseng is the most commonly used of the ginseng family, and research shows it releases dopamine and serotonin (another neurotransmitter) in the cerebral cortex, the brain region that governs memory, perception, and thought.[24]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2813579/ 

Look for a supplement that contains a blend of Panax ginseng and other nootropics to maximize effects. Go to www.findmyformula.com to find your personalized nootropics formula. 

  • L-theanine: An amino acid found in green and black tea, L-theanine increases the amount of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. [25]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17182482/ The result – you feel more alert and relaxed.[26]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224499000448 If you’ve been procrastinating and you need to complete a task, pair l-theanine with caffeine — the two work synergistically to help you focus for longer.[27]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/ 

 Get your L-theanine dose from a cup of green tea, or for a more powerful mental boost, choose a supplement that blends L-theanine with caffeine and other nootropics. Get started today! 

  • Zynamite®: Zynamite is a nootropic that contains at least 60% of mangiferin, a powerful antioxidant found in mango leaves. If you’re trying to overcome procrastination, Zynamite can up your focus and give you a sustained increase in energy. It does so by inhibiting COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase), an enzyme that breaks down dopamine.[28]https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/catechol-o-methyltransferase 

Choose a supplement blend that combines Zynamite with other nootropics to enhance its effects, like Formula nootropics. 

  • Magnesium: Many people aren’t getting enough magnesium, causing attention issues, anxiety, and brain fog.[29]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12949381/ [30]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23289218/ Research shows magnesium could have an antidepressant effect and raise dopamine levels.[31]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19059299/ The suggested dose is 200-800 mg a day before bedtime, but start slow – too much too soon can have a laxative effect. 
  • Oroxylin A: Also known by the brand name Sabroxy, this herbal extract increases dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that governs attention and concentration, helping improve mental function in people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).[32]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23371806/ [33]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25499957/

Pick a supplement that blends Sabroxy with other powerful nootropics to help you focus and finish important tasks. Try it today!

Rewire Your Brain 

You can train your brain to produce less dopamine when you procrastinate and instead release more dopamine when you complete a task. Reward yourself with a pleasurable activity when you get something difficult done – the more often you end an unpleasant task with something you like, the more you rewire your brain to reward you for not procrastinating. You can also experiment with productivity methods to find the best one that works for you — when you find a system that makes sense, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate.

Dopamine Side Effects

While it’s important that your body produces enough dopamine, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. High dopamine symptoms include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Mania
  • Hyperactivity
  • Paranoia

There is no reliable way to test for dopamine levels in the brain. If you’re concerned that you have a dopamine deficiency, chat with your medical practitioner. Typically, a doctor will assess your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle factors to diagnose a dopamine deficiency. 

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