How to boost your motivation by 250% (6 Dopamine Habits)


Dopamine is widely viewed as a pleasure chemical. Yet, it’s so much more than that.

What to do

Boost your motivation by 250% with six habits to optimize your dopamine levels.

Why it works

According to Stanford professor Andrew Huberman, dopamine is a molecule that is closely linked to our sense of motivation. It enhances our focus and lowers the threshold for taking goal-oriented action, making it vital for overcoming procrastination. When dopamine levels are elevated, we tend to focus our attention on outward goals and feel motivated to pursue them. 

Huberman’s Stanford colleague professor Anna Lembke (pictured above) probably put it best: “Dopamine is about wanting, not about having.” If you want to gain a deep understanding of dopamine (including its dark side), I highly recommend her book Dopamine Nation

In an article on dopamine, Huberman fwrites that it’s “hard to overstate how much dopamine levels shape our perception of life, our emotions, and how capable we perceive ourselves to be — when dopamine levels are low, we feel unmotivated, derive less pleasure from pursuits and feel physically tired.” Here are six science-based habits to boost that “molecule of motivation” every day.

How to do it

  1. View light right. Morning sunlight is not only vital to set our circadian rhythm and optimize sleep. It’s also crucial for maintaining healthy dopamine levels throughout the day. So, use our 10-10-10 rule: Get 10 minutes of sunlight into your eyes before 10 am. Then avoid bright, blue light after 10 pm. Learn more about optimizing light and sleep here
  2. Get morning cold exposure. A cold shower in the morning boosts dopamine for hours – by 250% (that’s the same rise one gets from cocaine)! That’s wild, isn’t it? To avoid cold shock, put safety first:  Start your shower nice and warm; then turn it to cold for 30-60 secs at the end. Learn more about morning cold showers here.
  3. Optimize caffeine intake. Caffeine boosts the number of dopamine receptors in your brain, helping you persevere with tedious tasks. However, both quantity and timing matter: up to 400 mg are safe for healthy adults (about two regular cups of coffee). Having caffeine too late in the day will crush your deep sleep. So avoid it in the last eight hours before bed. Learn more about optimizing your caffeine intake here.
  4. Do something difficult. A highly counterintuitive and effective way to boost dopamine levels in real-time is doing something hard. One of the best ways is intense exercise. Set a timer for 3 minutes, then alternate between 5 squats and 5 pushups. You’ll get a lasting boost in dopamine and motivation. Try it out and thank me later. And if you want to learn why this works, read this (spoiler: it works because dopamine works like a wave pool).
  5. Listen to music. This one probably doesn’t surprise you at all. Listening to music is a great way to boost dopamine levels in your brain. When you lack motivation, turn on your favorite playlist and see what happens. Combine this with habit number 4 to deliver a strong double-whammy to procrastination. If you want to learn more about using music to boost motivation and mood, listen to this podcast by Prof. Huberman.
  6. Eat protein. Dopamine is produced from the amino acid tyrosine, which we get from protein-rich foods. To boost dopamine, consume 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. If that’s too hard, another option is to supplement tyrosine. Needless to say, talk to your physician first.

You just learned about six habits to boost your motivation by 250%. 

Cultivating them will boost your motivation, enhance your focus, and help you beat procrastination for good.