“Don’t Give Up”  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

One thing that makes me a happy artist is discovering that most of my happiest moments have to do with something internal.  Even if I’m delighted with something external like the beauty of the day, it’s my attention to that something, that makes me feel happy.  It’s the whole brain chemistry activity that is really the source of joy.  That is a freeing observation, that the source of my happiness is right here in my own experience of my life.

Obviously cultivating our positive brain chemistry and hormones can help cultivate our happy artists lives, and reading about simple and cheap ways to do this can be reassuring.  And realizing that we already do a lot to help our dopamine levels is really nice.

I was reading a blog post about 8 great ways to increase our dopamine without drugs, and I realized some of them are embedded in my Morning Pages daily art practice.
Here are  Stephan Gardner‘s 8 ways to boost our dopamine:

1.  His first one is to stay away from the instant gratification of addictive behaviors. Although this seems fairly obvious, it does seem that many normal behaviors can easily become addictive when we ask them to keep us in a pleasurable state.  And of course addictions actually deplete us of our happy brain chemistry.  Stephan suggests we look for ways to create meaning and inspiration in our lives, to counter the pull of instant gratification and addictions.  For me, that would be my daily art practice.

2. Create check lists of tasks that you can complete and then with great satisfaction, tick of your list.   He suggests tasks that are tied to our highest values are then doubly rewarding.  So guess what, this is actually a check list of cool, simple things to do to make us happy, AND I am checking to see which ones I am already doing, AND I feel pretty happy about the results.

3. Create something.  Well sure, that’s a very easy one to do if you have a daily art practice. 

4. Exercise!  It helps relieve stress, achieve better physical health, makes us more productive and of course it boosts our dopamine levels. 

5. Stephen says we should get a streak going.  He describes a streak is a visual reminder of how many days in a row you’ve achieved something.  So create something every day and post it on FaceBook or Instagram, or blog about it.  Then you have your visual reminder of your daily achievement.  So easy!

6. He recommends foods which increase tyrosine, one of the most important chemicals that make up dopamine.  Here are a few foods that increase tyrosine: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Beef, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, Eggs, Green Tea, Watermelon, Yogurt.  So a little cafe mocha in the morning with my morning pages can get things flowing in the right direction.

7. Listen to music.   Research shows that listening to music increases dopamine levels much like eating our favorite comfort foods or watching some favorite TV series.  Of course adding music to a daily art practice could not be easier!

8. Meditate.  Research on the effects of meditation is a huge field now.  It’s found to be a highly effective form of dopamine increase.  (Of course the sages and yogis have known this for thousands of years)  Meditation clears the mind of worries and clutter, and replaces that with a sense of presence and joy at being alive. This is a state of mind that is available for all of us.  It is within our reach.

Try some of the things on this list, see if you can boost your dopamine.


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