Struggling to recover after finals? Dealing with shitty stuff in your life right now? Just wanting to feel a bit of happiness in your exhausted existentially despondent soul?
We all know dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us feel good. We all know what boosts dopamine: exercise, eat well, get human touch, etc. But what if you don't have the time to go for that one-hour run, the ability to cuddle or make love to a significant other, or the desire to bake a delicious meal?
Fear not, there are significantly easier ways to experience pleasure on even your saddest days—all in five minutes or less.
1. Make a to-do list.
Physically writing things down and then checking them off gives you a sense of accomplishment, bumping your dopamine. Every time you accomplish a goal, your brain is motivated to reward you to ensure you stay productive. You can even cheat the system—you'll still get the dopamine release even if you write down stuff you've already done.
Get the most out of your to-do list by breaking down lists into smaller lists: instead of writing, "clean kitchen"—write, "load dishwasher, wash frying pan, wipe down counters."
2. Enjoy a cup of tea.
Not only is hugging a steaming cuppa almost as good as a hug from a friend, caffeine can release dopamine into your brain. (Not TOO much caffeine, else you'll create other problems--hence why tea is perfect.)
3. Dance like nobody's watching. (Hopefully they aren't.)
Exercise is great for raising your dopamine levels, as is listening to music. It's a twofer! Put on your favorite song, and flail around by yourself for four minutes. You might feel like an idiot but you'll also feel better.
4. Give yourself a hand massage.
Massages help lower cortisol (the stress hormone) AND increases dopamine. Win-win! Just rub your hands for a couple minutes, no skill necessary.
5. Look at kitty videos.
Petting animals totally boosts this neurotransmitter. But looking at photos of them can help trick your brain into remembering what it's like to play with kitties or puppies and give the same dopamine boost.
6. Stand up straight!
Pull down your shoulders, lift your chest, and stand tall. As little as two minutes of really good posture will boost your dopamine levels.
7. Eat something spicy.
Your body will react by sending hormones to soothe the rush of spiciness, and voila: dopamine.
Even in our most overwhelmed, busiest states, we all can carve out five minutes. When things are falling apart around you, try spending those five minutes on something that will give you a quick boost and help you power through.