This week, we’re discussing dopamine – its functions, how it affects children and ways to increase levels to help them lead a more balanced and fulfilled life.
The four major chemicals in the brain that influence happiness are:
So, what’s dopamine all about? It is the primary neurotransmitter that helps us to focus, feel motivated, and enjoy activities. Although often referred to as being a ‘happiness chemical’, it is actually more involved with anticipation (of pleasurable reward) than the actual ‘happy’ feeling.
Notable functions are in:
- behaviour and cognition
- attention and learning
- sleep and mood
How dopamine affects children
Low levels can cause children to have issues with social anxiety, focus and attention, problem-solving and executive functioning. A lack of this chemical is also associated with ADHD. To kick start and boost their low levels, children with ADHD are often drawn to things that constantly stimulate them at an intense level, such as video games.
Try incorporating the following things to help stimulate the reward response:
- Completing a task
- Self-care activities
- Celebrating little wins
- Eating homemade food
Our body makes dopamine from an amino acid called Tyrosine, so eating a diet rich in tyrosine is an excellent way of boosting levels naturally. Ingredients that contain antioxidants and natural folate also support healthy dopamine levels.
- Beans and lentils
- Folate-rich vegetables (green leafy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Nuts and seeds
- Oats and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
- Pumpkin (and pumpkin seeds)
- Sweet potato
At Wild. Kind., we encourage activities that boost dopamine in a natural and fulfilling way, as well as by providing balanced, nutritious food.
In our next blog we’ll be discussing Oxytocin – the neuro-chemical that helps us feel empathy and as a result make connections with others.