Motivation is an interesting thing. Because its counterpart, procrastination, is far too easy. After all, with procrastination, you don’t have to do anything. Or, you can do anything but the task at hand. Pretty simple, right? Conversely, motivation requires work. If you take a look at how motivation works in the brain, however, you can potentially learn ways to hack your brain so that motivation becomes easier.
We recently came across an interesting article titled Your Brain on Dopamine: The Science of Motivation. In it, the authors discuss how motivation works in the brain. Specifically, they detail the way that the neurotransmitter dopamine sends signals that enhance a person’s motivation. Now we’re not scientists; if you want the full scoop on the way dopamine functions within these neural synapses to impact motivation, you’ll find the article here.
Beyond describing the science behind the direct dopamine-motivation connection, the authors go on to explain ways to hack your brain to increase your productivity. While the article focuses on work productivity, it’s easy enough to extrapolate these hacks to apply to nutritional motivation. We’re talking about using motivation in the brain to stick with a diet plan. “You create the dopamine environment, and the brain does the rest,” say the authors. Tried and true ways to increase dopamine include positive reinforcement and setting and meeting incremental goals. “Dopamine will flow as a result of your brain’s positive reinforcement every time you complete a step and meet a challenge.”
Let’s take a look at the five tips the article offers to “get your dopamine flowing” and increase work productivity. We’ll consider these tips within the context of dieting, instead.
1. “Record small accomplishments.” In the nutrition world, this is a proven tactic—and now we know why: it’s a way to boost dopamine. Using a food journal to log your progress will help you keep track of daily and weekly positive accomplishments on the path toward your overarching goal.
2. “Share results with your team.” In the example of dieting, think of your team as your family, friends, training partners, and yes, your social media network. Share your steps and successes along the way to illicit positive feedback and encouragement. This will in turn spur dopamine production, leading to increased motivation.
3. “Stay on task with micro-deadlines.” Don’t obsess on what you’re hoping to accomplish too far down the road of your dieting goal. Instead, take it one step at a time. If you’re aiming to lose 20 pounds, focus on one pound per week. When you lose a single pound, that’s a milestone achieved. And you guessed it—the positive reinforcement from that achievement can lead to an increase in dopamine, fueling your motivation to stick with your nutrition plan.
4. “Focus on how great you’ll feel when your project is complete.” With each micro-goal, you’ll feel better, healthier, and more fit. Revel in your accomplishments to increase the positive feedback to your brain, and in turn, boost dopamine production.
5. “Boost your diet with dopamine-filled foods.” Foods that increase dopamine production include milk, yogurt, bananas, and nuts. As part of your healthy nutrition plan, and to help you stay motivated, include milk, yogurt, mashed banana, or pure nut butter in your protein shake. Our Chocolate Banana Nut Protein Shake includes three dopamine-boosting ingredients; it’s delicious and nutritious, too.
Learning new habits and sticking with a diet takes plenty of motivation. You’re bound to have some minor setbacks along the way. But at least you’re now armed with more than simply the desire to stay motivated, or the will to lose weight. Now, you have science on your side, and you know how to hack your brain to boost dopamine production and make yourself as motivated as possible.