Get better results with a daily dose of dopamine

Dopamine – a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and anticipation of reward – creates the motivation and energy needed to obtain results, according to Robert Sapolsky, neuroscientist and primate researcher. When a reward is created, and anticipated, employees work for the reward and a rise of dopamine occurs.

In an economy where companies are asking more of their employees, it is important for them to understand the power of a daily dose of dopamine to keep employees energized.
Dopamine is a natural hormone produced in the brain that plays an important role in regulating one’s mood, emotions, ability to deal with stress, anxiety levels and sleep patterns. Dopamine levels also enhance our decision-making ability and control cravings.
Goal-setting, along with specific, measurable and time-bound steps can increase dopamine when reward is tied to frequent results. The reward can be simple: a thank you note, a ringing of a bell, applause at a meeting, or a small gift card.
The key is short-term recognition along with a reward tied to a clear reward system. That way, the recipient experiences short-term gratification.
Why is a dose of dopamine important?
Not only does it increase our motivation and energy, but it can also increase creativity. Parkinson’s patients given synthetic dopamine have been shown to develop sudden and sophisticated artistic talents where no such skills previously existed. With their inhibitions lowered, they write poetry, paint, and create obsessively.
If dopamine is associated with increased creativity and is created through the anticipation of reward, how can creative leaders use some of this knowledge to help their teams do more satisfying work?
Here are four simple steps:

  • Set goals that are specific, measurable and time bound. This should include actionable steps so it is easy to hold people accountable and measure progress.
  • Ask your team what “reward” they want – don’t assume you know. You will be surprised that often times, employees are asking for less than you imagined.
  • Reward often and fulfill the need for short-term gratification. Too often, company leaders wait until the end of the year bonus time to recognize their employees’ hard work.
  • Change it up! When your team’s motivation begins to wane, look for ways to increase the potential reward or make it different. Creating anticipation and excitement contributes to half of a great recognition program’s success.

In addition, we can find natural ways to increase our own dose of dopamine. Here are just a few things you can do to take responsibility for your own dose of dopamine:

  • Restrict your food intake over the course of the day, making sure to eat enough food to survive but less food than is needed by your body, suggests Science Daily.
  • Replace all caffeinated beverages with natural decaffeinated green tea throughout the day. According to Psychology Today, the polyphenol in green tea helps increase dopamine levels, which ultimately could increase the level of dopamine receptors.
  • Exercise daily and regularly. According to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, exercise can increase the number of dopamine receptors in the brain.
  • A banana a day creates a dose of dopamine. Include a ripe banana as part of your daily diet. As a banana matures, it produces dopamine quinine, a naturally occurring form of dopamine. Although small brown areas on the fruit indicate bruising, these portions also contain the highest levels of dopamine.
  • Supplement your diet with foods rich in antioxidants. Free radicals lower dopamine levels in the body, and antioxidants eliminate free radicals. Most vegetables and fruits contain some antioxidants, with red beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, prunes and strawberries topping the list.
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and saturated fats. Not only will these products reduce dopamine levels in your bloodstream, but saturated fats will clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Pack a handful of raw almonds or sunflower seeds for your morning break instead of eating a candy bar. In addition, sprinkle sesame seeds on salads and sandwiches for a jump-start to your dopamine levels.
  • Purchase natural amino acid supplements to get a dopamine boost. Available at health food stores or online, these products offer a concentrated dose of the amino acids naturally found in a healthy brain.

Challenge: How will you increase the dose of dopamine and motivation at work?
Susan K. Wehrley has been a performance consultant an coach for 24 years. She is the founder and CEO of Pewaukee-based BIZremedies: Strategic Growth Solutions. Her websites are and She can be reached at: or (414) 581-0449.

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Susan K. Wehrley is an executive coach and business consultant that aligns executives and businesses to their vision, values and goals. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes. You can email Susan at, (262) 696-6856 or visit her website for more details.

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