It’s a key scene in the classic movie KEY LARGO:
Edward G. Robinson, starring as the gangster Johnny Rocco, holds a room of people hostage.
Humphrey Bogart, the tough good guy, tells the others Rocco knows what he wants.
Rocco is puzzled. What does he want?
“He wants more,” Bogey says. “Don’t you, Rocco?”
Rocco is excited. “That’s it! More! I want more.”
“Will you ever get enough?” Lionel Barrymore asks.
“Well, I never have,” Rocco admits. “Yeah, I guess I won’t.”
Right there you have the essence of the most important brain neurochemical boiled down to its essence – even though the movie came out over 10 years before the discovery of the neurotransmitter:
Thanks to dopamine, we’re not hairless apes hanging around the cave.
Thanks to dopamine, Alexander the Great wept when he had no more worlds to conquer.
Thanks to dopamine, Carly Simon’s song, “Anticipation” became a hit. We get the most dopamine from anticipating, NOT from getting what we want.
More Motivating than a Tony Robbins Seminar
Whenever your mind and desires go to something you don’t yet have, that’s dopamine.
It’s the kick in the rear we need to go out and hunt and gather.
Dopamine is there when you fall in love, when you focus on something that fascinates you and when you compete to win a game or race.
If you want more . . . more money, more love, more mating, more food, more fun, more fame, more security, more awards, more status . . .
If you’re not living the lifestyle you deserve, you need to put the bong down, get up off that couch and get a move on.
If you often procrastinate, especially when it comes to taking action toward goals you really want . . .
You need more dopamine.
In advanced cases, dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease.
Beyond the Here and Now
Dopamine is strongly associated with desire, and the biochemical rewards we feel when we go after what we want.
Therefore, people who display low motivation suffer from a deficit of dopamine. They don’t feel enthusiasm. They’re not enjoying life.
The connection is so close because dopamine is not only tightly linked to “motivation” as a feeling, but also to the nerves that control our muscles. So we’re talking both emotional desire and actual physical movement toward what we desire.
Ways to Increase Dopamine
Exercise and physical activity can help the body release dopamine in the body. It also is probably the best natural way to oxygenate your blood which is so critical in keeping the body’s defenses at their best.
This is an amino acid that enzymes in your body convert into dopamine.
You can find it in turkey, beef, soy, beans, nuts and eggs.
There are l’tyrosine supplements, but they do result in a dopamine crash.
And definitely avoid such supplements if you have schizoprenic-related mental disorders.
3. Velvet beans
These beans – Mucuna pruriens – contain L-dopa, the precursor to dopamine. Eating meals of velvet beans has helped relieve symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s.
However, velvet beans are toxic in large amounts, so this is not a practical on-going solution.
4. Pat Yourself on the Back for Daily Effort Toward Your Goals
Recognize and give yourself credit for your day to day activities. It takes sustained work – often without recognition – to accomplish worthwhile goals.
When you get discouraged or lose hope or begin to believe you’ll never accomplish what you want – recognizing your hard work will release some motivation-sustaining dopamine.
5. Celebrate Achievements Only at Random
If casinos paid customers on a regular, predictable schedule, the customers would get bored and the industry would collapse.
People are addicted to winning at craps, blackjack and slot machines when they least expect it.
Of course, they lose more than they win, but those occasional, intermittent wins give them a rush of dopamine that keeps them coming back to lose more money.
6. Avoid Reward Prediction Error
Don’t over-anticipate. When a goal turns out to deliver less pleasure than you anticipate, dopamine crashes.
An example could be working toward a particular level of income. You tell yourself that once you reach it, you’ll never have to worry about money again. But when you actually get there, you find you still can’t buy everything you want.
7. Surprise & Novelty
Dopamine loves surprise. However, that’s impossible to plan for or control.
So leave your life open to new things, new people, new places, new activities and new experiences.
8. Avoid bright light late at night
From 10:00 to 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM, avoid bright lights as much as possible. Light during this period reduces your capacity to release dopamine.
Ideally, you spend almost all of this period in the dark, sleepy deeply.
9. Beta-Phenylethylamine (PEA)
This is a supplement that releases low levels of dopamine AND low levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that increases your pleasure in the here and now.
10. Avoid Methamphetamine
It destroys neurons that produce dopamine.
It’s especially important to get sunlight or other bright light in the morning – in the two hours after you get up.
That’s when you want your body to have energy and get-up-and-go.
If your life’s too easy, find something difficult to accomplish.
If your life’s hard, fight back against your problems.
Dopamine is a Double-Edged Neurochemical
When it’s misused it can lead to addiction.
And there is a time to relax and enjoy life. When the workday is over, and you’d like to hang out with friends, your spouse and your kids – dopamine is not the neurotransmitter you want controlling your brain. That’s when you need neurotransmitters to feel love and to enjoy satisfaction with the here-and-now.
And, of course, while dopamine drives most people to legitimate, ethical and positive accomplishments, some wind up like Johnny Rocco.
(HINT: By the end of KEY LARGO, Rocco has zilch.)