How to Increase Dopamine

A young man hoisting his young daughter onto his back as both smile, experiencing a boost in dopamine

The Best Ways to Increase Dopamine

If something has ever made you smile, then you’ve experienced dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical made by your brain and it rewards you for being on the right track. This sensation feels like the smell of cookies being baked while you pet a dog and complete a mildly difficult task.  


Every element of your life is influenced by dopamine: an amino acid generated by neurons (nerve cells) that serves as a chemical messenger for other neurons. Dopamine, like other neurotransmitters, moves between cells and attaches to receptors. 


According to popular culture, dopamine has long been regarded as the primary neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. However, dopamine actually has a greater impact on desire and motivation than pleasure. We call this the “motivation molecule.” Reward, motivation, memory, and attention are all aided by the brain’s many dopamine pathways. 


The Science of Dopamine

Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University and host of the Huberman Lab, explains how the science of dopamine in this long-form youtube video. 


9 Dopamine Benefits

The following are some of the advantages of naturally boosting dopamine levels: 

  1. Motivation to get things done and achieve goals with more energy and passion.
  2. Decreased use of drugs and dependence on them.
  3. Improved learning, long-term memory, and working memory capabilities. 
  4. The ability to focus and concentrate is improved. 
  5. An increase in linguistic and visual inventiveness. 
  6. A more positive frame of mind 
  7. A decrease in anxiety and an increase in self-assurance 
  8. Social connection and stronger relationships have been enhanced (oxytocin plays a role too) 
  9. Pain tolerance is increased.


How to Increase Dopamine

Behaviors like laughter, smiling, human contact, and achieving small cooperative goals are a few examples of ways to increase dopamine levels. 


Humans evolved to have far more dopamine in their bodies than any other similar species (about 4.4 million years ago). Why would evolution favor higher levels of dopamine? The jury is still out on that one, but many reputable scientists believe that higher dopamine levels in our brains makes us easier to get along with one another. People work together better when there is dopamine present. 


Building relationships, along with laughter, seems to be a formula for civilization and community building.  People help people achieve small tasks and goals. As a species, dopamine allows us to tolerate each other long enough to get big things done by getting small things done first. It is our philosophy that any mental health program should focus on these realities.


What is the Vagus Nerve?

One of the most interesting ways to increase dopamine is to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body. It connects your brain to several internal organs throughout the body, including the intestines, stomach, heart and lungs. 


In fact, the word “vagus” means “wanderer” in Latin, which accurately represents how the nerve wanders all over the body reaching various places. The vagus nerve is also a key part of your parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. It influences your breathing, digestive function, and heart rate, all of which can have a huge impact on your mental health.  


How to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

These are some popular acupuncture points for vagus nerve stimulation, and thus dopamine stimulation: 

  • Stomach 36 (which is actually in the lower leg)
  • Governing Vessel 26 (between the upper lip and the nose)
  • Gallbladder 34 (just above the ankle)
  • Kidney 1 (in the middle of the sole of the foot)
  • Pericardium 7 (the underside of the arm where the hand meets the wrist)
  • Shen Men ear point (top of the inner earlobe)
  • Yin Tang (between the eyebrows)


Here’s a helpful video on how you can do this at home:



Dopamine and Vitamin D

It is no big surprise that the sun is a source of wellness and health. The bummer is that when you are experiencing depression or agoraphobia you may avoid the daylight. You may stay in bed all day, struggling. Nonetheless, drag yourself into the backyard to be depressed outside with your bare feet on the ground and the sun on your face. This alone can boost dopamine levels into a range where depression dissolves away. 



Rhodiola is a gem of an herb traditionally found in Chinese and Scandinavian medicine. In fact, Vikings would consume large amounts before they went on raids and long journeys. We call Rhodiola the Golden Root or Arctic Root. 


Researchers have found that Rhodiola stimulates dopamine receptors and inhibits the enzymes that break down dopamine in the brain. In other words, this herb helps encourage dopamine production and keeps it in the bloodstream longer. 


Rhodiola also increases mental and physical stamina. Athletes use this herb for tissue oxygenation which helps fight fatigue and stress. Russian athletes and cosmonauts are known to have used Rhodiola regularly to deal with stress, anxiety and physical strain. Rhodiola, an immortality herb in traditional Chinese medicine, treats anxiety and depression via the dopamine connection.


Do Cold Showers Increase Dopamine?

Cold showers can help with dopamine as cold exposure can increase dopamine levels by 250%. Likewise, jumping into the ocean or a lake works too. Have a friend hose you down in the backyard while you absorb precious vitamin D sunlight! You may find your depression fading away while you jump barefoot through an icy cold sprinkler in the backyard sunshine.



Ginseng increases dopamine levels. It comes in several varieties based on the location where it grows and its basic properties. For dopamine levels to increase, American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen) is your best bet. It is much cooler than regular ginseng and much less expensive as well. 


Studies have shown the massive effects ginseng can have on brain health and dopamine stimulation (and no, the ginseng in your energy drink does not count!)


Dopamine and Mental Health

By adjusting a few small daily behaviors, adding a few herbal supplements and taking cold showers we can get a firm handle on our mental health symptoms without pharmaceuticals (if we so choose) and the painful side effects that go with them. Dopamine is a gift we can give ourselves. Your brain will thank you and your mental health will flourish.


Barn Life Recovery can help you permanently increase your dopamine levels and fight off depression and anxiety through our mental health services. Check out our slate of events to find out how you can join our growing community.

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Hear From Those We've Impacted

Barn life is probably one of the most amazing facilities you could ever attend when it comes to mental illness. This was the first place that popped up when I was searching for help and I’m so thankful that it did. The environment is very therapeutic, the staff is awesome, and the group discussions and activities were so helpful in me understanding what I was experiencing. Do not hesitate to be a part of this place. It’s literally a game changer. I was only there for 6 weeks but I wished I stayed at least 6 months. Ever since returning home, I’ve been much happier and my perspective has changed dramatically. I’ve done things and participated in events at my college that I never thought I would be able to do. This place is truly amazing and I’m forever grateful that I found this place.
Ariana E.
Ariana E.
18:05 30 Sep 22
Best for someone looking for spiritual healing in addition to their mental health healing.
Luka P.
Luka P.
03:26 17 Sep 22
Barn Life is uniquely special. As someone who has had long stretches of sobriety with "traditional" communities and methods, Barn Life stepped in when I started struggling during the pandemic and said "traditional" methods failed to help.The staff here are exceptional. This is a truly subjective statement, but it is my honest opinion that the people from the owner (Hi Matt!) to EVERYONE else works there because they believe in the work and want to share the tools they found.Barn Life and their little sibling, Peer Mental Wellness were the launchpad from a shell of an existence to person with self-love/respect, and a life-mission of personal development.
Steven D.
Steven D.
02:54 21 Aug 22
When I walked in I thought I'd teleported to east asia. When I finally got a chance to sit down , take in the scene, explore the culture and decor there ...I found signs and symbols that had me interested in a new way of thinking.Now, when I met the people I wasnt ever struck by how luxurious their suit was (some have cool tattoos) or anything aesthetic but more drawn towards the energy of the staff. Especially the owners and the reiki practitioner, they're the OG's of the place. You'll find Kevin has the same thing and was a huge pickup for the space. He's intro to the themes provide very cool concepts based on Greek myths and how most theologies are symbols for the psyche , and psychology really being the study of the "soul" as psyche in Greek is "soul".Tai chi is amazing, the have an instructor who's been connected to the space since it began.The Qi Gong instructor is awesome. You'll love her traditional, authoritative korean spunk and overall burning passion and unrelenting commitment to help people. She'll put in extra one-on-one time if you're really about it.And reiki with kristin is basically taking a trip without the need of external , psychotropic medications. Shes also very engaged with the community and if you're smart you'll stop in her office from time to time to talk about life or share art. She'll make you see the world in a different way.Last but not least the owner Matt is one of the most warm hearted humans I've ever met. Very well rounded and is probably the coolest one to pick the brain of. His office is usually open but most people dont have the balls to go in there and face him alone believe or not. Dont be soft. What I always loved about matt is when I'd walk in and say something, he never gave me advice. He usually would just agree with my analysis which would somehow guide me to answers, as if being a mirror of truth. The more I opened up to him, the more I felt a , "me too" presence. Hes a true ,genuine man, and will turn into a reliable friend quickly if you're just an honest, authentic and committed human being.And his wife alyssa has the same warm, lighthearted spunk. They both are the loving parents who sit back and watch for sure.Much Love to Barn
Alex W.
Alex W.
07:53 21 Jun 22
Difficult to put my experience of this place into words. A hidden gem of healing, a necessary step to take. If you are looking for change, the place is here—prepare to dive into your journey of self discovery, and enjoy the ride!
Vicki S.
Vicki S.
23:45 07 Mar 22
Barn life is a unique place. In my time, I feel like I came out with more tools and a happier outlook than I could have anticipated. Groups were incredibly interesting, and involved areas and perspectives on wellness and mental health that I haven’t encountered elsewhere, but have been crucial for me. The balance of eastern and western modalities felt like it gave me a lot of space and tools for introspection and growing to understand and like myself better. I feel as though I developed friendships and a support system that I’m incredibly thankful for. I’m grateful for everyone I attended barn with and everyone who led groups or worked there. It really is a special space!
Chris M
Chris M
03:05 03 Mar 22
I came to Barnlife in the middle of Covid and in the middle of a personal crisis.Simply being there, with the excellent staff and supportive clients around me day to day, lifted me up out of my mental despair and set me off to continue my life in a productive, successful and fulfilling way.So many of the staff members are outstanding, but I must say that Mathew Carver, the owner, is the heart and soul and light of this place. His groups and his genuinely caring personal attention truly saved my life.
Colette H.
Colette H.
22:57 02 Mar 22
This was a life changing experience. I came into who I am while here and was able to become comfortable in my own skin. The facility and staff are amazing and it is an extremely supportive community. Nothing like any other treatment program I've been to.
Nicholas C.
Nicholas C.
04:14 02 Mar 22
This is my first review, I just had to sing the praises of Barn Life Recovery, they have been instrumental in helping a family member of mine, the staff and environment are so welcoming- I have seen such a difference in my loved one, they have given him the tools and confidence to dig deep and live his best life, to respond not react. Forever grateful~Thank you!!!
Jessica D
Jessica D
18:00 25 Feb 22
I came to Barn Life in 2019 for support with my depression and anxiety. It was the hardest time in my life and I felt so welcomed and supported by the people here. My experience at Barn Life changed my life. I found community and I learned how to care for my mind, body, and soul. I highly recommend this place for anyone who is struggling mentally.
Alix G.
Alix G.
22:08 10 Jan 22
This is an amazing facility. I actually came to these guys a handful of years ago and had a great experience. They are very welcoming and make that first step a little easier. They are much more open minded and understand what it's like to be sitting in the chairs next to you as well. On top of everything, I had a not-so-great experience with the DMV recently and they required some old paperwork from years ago. Matt and Barn Life were able to help me out and get everything squared away. They truly went above and beyond and I would most definitely recommend them to others.
Ty M.
Ty M.
02:23 25 Apr 21
Barn life is not just a recovery community, it is a family of friends that will stay with me for life. The staff here has taught me things about myself that I never believed before. They helped me find a confidence in myself I didn’t know existed. I returned here after a relapse and deep depression and they accepted me with open arms. I am eternally grateful for this place and anyone should feel safe sending their loved one here.
Suzanne S.
Suzanne S.
19:23 16 Nov 20
This place is the best treatment center I could've asked for! I came in at my lowest I've ever been, and the staff welcomed me with open arms. I truly love everything this place has to offer, every service and group has helped me grow into my own again. I can finally look forward to life again. I would recommend this place to any age struggling with addiction or mental health issues, it is a magical place I swear to god.
Piper D.
Piper D.
22:56 22 Sep 20
This program saved my life. I’ve been to a lotttttt of other programs but this one is so unique and special I literally still talk about it even though I graduated a while ago. I wish everyone could experience how amazing Barn Life is!
Brittany D.
Brittany D.
21:55 17 Sep 20
Barn Life has truly taught me to love life again. I was a lost, broken, and cagey girl when I came here. With the tremendous amounts of love and hard work from the staff and other clients, I have transformed into the woman I was always meant to be.When I first walked in I felt like I found the home I had been searching for. Everyone of their staff members sincerely cares for each person that walks through their gates. The staff is impeccable and will not allow anything to stand in the way of helping any and everyone they meet. I appreciate every aspect that Barn Life has to offer.Every moment I spent in this facility, I will cherish for the rest of my life. I would not be here today without their help.Thank you all so much for being here and offering such a safe space for me to heal and learn to love again.
Justice I.
Justice I.
18:40 25 May 20
This place is so amazing it has really helped me turn my life around I am forever grateful to barn life I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling
Melanie M.
Melanie M.
22:50 24 Jan 20
Words can't express how grateful I am for Barn Life Recovery. My daughter was desperately reaching out for help for many years and as her mother, I didn't recognize the depth of her despair, and I was limited in my understanding of what "help" she needed.With her insight and perfect understanding of her illness, her limitless research to find the professional help she needed and her persistent attempts to help me to understand what she needed from me,Barn Life Recovery was a glimmer of hope in what I perceived as a helpless and increasing darkness.She had to face many fears to board a jet alone and travel to California from Alabama.I'm so happy for her, she has been there for 2 months and is receiving the help she needs, physical, mental and emotional.I hope the rest of the country can follow their concept of "help".
Sylvia M.
Sylvia M.
13:05 10 Nov 19
Wonderfully compassionate people, very down to earth the team at barn life treats everyone proper af!
austin B.
austin B.
01:02 13 Oct 19
Barn Life is hands down the best recovery / mental health facility in Orange County, probably in California. I went there for 6 months and they saved my life. Unconventional, progressive, caring, fun. NOT your typical prison-like rehab place, it's a zen garden/dojo with art, reiki, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga with the best therapy Ive ever received as well as the most informative, personal groups. Matt and Alyssa Carver are the best people I know and I truly cant say enough about them as people or rehabilitation owners. No, no one paid me to say all this, lol. This is thanks from my heart.
Andru W.
Andru W.
04:20 20 Sep 19
I am alumni from Zen Recovery Path / a great place , and live a happy healthy life ever since / great peaceful place to recover // Namaste
Michael M.
Michael M.
01:06 11 Jul 19
My daughter has been at Barn Life Recovery now for two months. It was my last resort to send her 9 hours away from me. She has been in drug and mental health rehabs in and out for two years. This was my last stitch effort to save my daughter and get her back to herself. Alyssa and I spoke multiple times before deciding. Their willingness to do everything for her and the different teams they have work with them is amazing. My daughter is happy again and clean and sober. She loves it there in their outpatient program. They restore your faith in humanity. They help restore someone who is broken in so many places to themselves. They have put the light back in my daughters eyes. They are committed to helping each person who truly wants the help. They assist in helping them get jobs and be responsible members of society. I recommend their program to anyone wanting to recover from drug, alcohol and mental health.Thank you to all the people at Barn Life who have made my daughter smile and bring the light back to her eyes. I am truly grateful.DawnaLee
DawnaLee W.
DawnaLee W.
17:34 18 May 19
Through trial and error of trying to stay sober this program is definitely the most caring and supporting of them all if anyone needs help and is willing to help themselves I suggest barnlife they will for a fact give you the push you need and the tools to keep you going
Mason T.
Mason T.
06:10 14 Mar 19



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