Tag Archives: mental health

Improving Dopamine Levels

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss, pleasure, euphoria, drive, motivation, focus, and concentration. But let’s start at the beginning: Your brain actually communicates with itself. That is, you have an intricately linked system of nerve cells called neurons that “communicate” with each other via specialized receptor sites.

Dopamine is a chemical (neurotransmitter) that is used by the nerves to send “messages.” When a nerve releases dopamine, it crosses a very small gap called a synapse and then attaches to a dopamine receptor on the next nerve. Therefore, when dopamine levels are depleted in the brain, the nerve impulses, or “messages,” cannot be transmitted properly and can impair brain functions: behavior, mood, cognition, attention, learning, movement, and sleep.

How Do I Know Whether I Have Dopamine Deficiency?

When there is a dopamine deficiency, emotions cannot be correctly regulated. Mental impulses that mitigate intense feelings of sadness are inhibited; therefore, the most common low dopamine symptoms are the same signs associated with clinical depression (and more specifically, major depressive disorder):

14 Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

1 Lack of interest in life

2 Decreased motivation

3 Procrastination

4 Inability to feel pleasure

5 Altered sleep patterns

6 Restless leg syndrome

7 Fatigue

8 Mood swings

9 Excessive feelings of hopelessness or guilt

10 Poor memory

11 Inability to focus/impaired concentration

12 Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors

13 Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants

14 Weight gain

Extreme dopamine deficiency, as in the case of Parkinson’s disease, causes a permanent and degenerative diminishing of motor skills, including muscle rigidity and tremors.

7 Ways to Treat Dopamine Deficiency

With that background in mind, consider the following dopamine-boosting tactics you can take to increase dopamine.

1. Decrease your sugar intake. Sugar alters brain chemistry by disrupting dopamine levels, which is one reason why people often experience a “sugar high” shortly after eating sweets. Just as alcohol and drugs can deplete dopamine levels, sugar does the same. In fact, sugar stimulates the exact same euphoric pathway targeted by alcohol and drug use–that is, the decreased dopamine levels lead to actual sugar addictions.

Whether initiated by alcohol, cocaine, or sugar, the compulsive behavior addiction is the same—an undeniable desire for dopamine. Limiting sugar intake will help fight this addictive dopamine depletion-sugar craving cycle. If you struggle with a sweet tooth, you can take chromium picolinate supplements to help decrease your sugar cravings.[1,2]

2. Take tyrosine. When your brain cells need to “manufacture” neurotransmitters for proper mood regulation, they use amino acids as the essential raw material. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; there are 20 different amino acids that make up the protein our body needs.

The brain uses the amino acid l-phenylalanine as the source (precursor) for the production of dopamine. Phenylalanine is one of the “essential” amino acids; that is, the body cannot make it on its own so we have to get it from the foods we eat or from supplements. Once the body receives phenylalanine, it can convert it to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine. So the way to increase central nervous system neurotransmitter levels is to provide proper amounts of the amino acid precursor.

Bananas, especially ripe bananas, are an exceptional food for regulating dopamine because they have a high concentration of tyrosine. Other foods that increase dopamine through the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine include almonds, apples, watermelons, cherries, yogurt, beans, eggs and meats.

It is important to note that dopamine foods alone generally do not have the therapeutic amino acid levels necessary to boost dopamine levels for someone experiencing major depressive disorder. To boost your levels of dopamine, dopamine rich foods may not be adequate. Tyrosine supplementation may help.

3. Decrease caffeine intake. Even though coffee gives you the energy boost you need, just like sugar, it only offers temporary relief and may actually be doing more harm than good. After experiencing the initial kick caffeine offers, dopamine levels in the body decrease. So, go for a cup of decaf or at least minimize consumption of coffee to counter dopamine deficiency.[5]

4. Set a routine schedule. One easy way to boost dopamine is to get in a healthy routine and stick to it. Your routine should include adequate time for work and rest. Ideally, your 24-hour day should include seven to eight hours of sleep per night in combination with periods of physical activity.

Under-sleeping and/or over-sleeping combined with lack of regular exercise can drain the brain of dopamine. Why? Proper sleep gives the brain time to recuperate from the day and recharge its stores of neurotransmitters.

5. Get consistent exercise. Regular physical activity increases blood circulation to influence the presence of many different hormones within the brain, affecting dopamine levels.

6. Decrease stress levels. High stress levels are also strongly correlated with dopamine deficiency. Stress can be caused by two sources: poor adrenal function and chronic daily life stressors. While we can’t always control our circumstances, there are “stress safeguards” you can utilize to help you deal with the day-in and day-out anxieties.

Remember, if stress is not handled properly, it can be devastating to your health. So, establish an ongoing plan that enables you to deal with stress effectively.

7. Correct a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency can cause decreased levels of dopamine, and natural health experts estimate over half of the US population to be deficient in this relaxation mineral. If you’ve been eating a diet heavy in junk foods or processed foods, you probably have a magnesium deficiency! Common symptoms include food cravings (salt or carbs), constipation, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, muscle pains and spasms, fatigue, headaches, and depression symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and irritability.

There are blood and urine tests that your doctor can perform to see if you have a magnesium deficiency. However, these tests may not always be accurate since most of the body’s magnesium stays in the cells, rather than in the bloodstream or the urine.

There is one lab test called a sublingual epithelial test that is more effective because it checks for magnesium in the cells, where most of it is present. To perform this test, your doctor will scrape under your tongue with a tongue depressor to obtain epithelial cells, which are then sent to a lab for analysis. Schedule this test with your doctor or start increasing your intake of magnesium.[6]

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When God Doesn’t Move the Mountain

Why can’t I  stop pulling my hair?

Why do I still have manic episodes?

Why does this cloud of depression try to consume me?

 I know God can heal me. The creator of the universe can do anything. So I wonder, will He ever heal me? I pray and pray and try to fight through His strength. Some days are better than others, but the bottom line is that these strongholds are the anchors trying to drag me down.  I am the child of the one true King and nothing the devil throws at me will change my unwavering faith and love for my God, my Savior, and my closest Friend.

Through my most recent manic episode that lasted about four months, I have begged for healing.  Through my prayers and seeking God through His Word, I keep getting the same message.  There is a purpose for my pain. God will use me and my struggles in His time. I know His plans are perfect and He is preparing me for what lies ahead.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about his disability. Paul is the guy with an insurmountable faith. He commanded people to be healed in the name of Jesus, and they were healed instantly. He told a demon to flee simply  because he was annoyed, and the demon fled. Paul clearly lacks no faith. He’s the guy that could say to a mountain, “move,” and it would have to move. He says:

“…I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me,

‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.”  {2 Corinthians 12:7-12}

The poster child of faith could not pray his own disability away. Three times he prayed, using a level of faith that is hard to wrap my mind around…and God still said no. God wanted Paul to rely on His grace to make it through, not on Paul’s own ability. God wanted to bring Paul to his knees so that he would have to rely on Him to get by.

But sometimes God says no.

You don’t have to tell yourself that the faith you just tried so hard to muster up, so intensely that it made you physically sick, wasn’t enough. That if you could just try a little harder, you could make God change the situation. That you could somehow control God.

Because, surprisingly, it’s incredibly comforting to know that God can say no. And he does, often. There’s strength in knowing we can’t control His decisions, and that the outcome does not always, in fact, depend on our level of faith.

And there’s strength in knowing that sometimes God doesn’t move the mountains, simply because He wants us to rely on Him to climb them.

Through the Eyes of a Lion

TTEOAL_2_InstagramQuote_1.jpgLet’s Welcome the Light and Gain a New Perspective on Our Pain

Levi Lusko has used his pain to produce this powerful message. I consider the sword of the spirit (the bible) to be one of my most powerful weapons against the enemy in  my battle with bipolar disorder and trichotillomania. In his biblically based book, Levi explains that our suffering is an opportunity for us to to be used like never before.
Our biggest struggles are also the places where we can help others the most. Living through the pain gives us a unique perspective to help others through the same troubles we have. I think one of the biggest problems people have with Christianity is the question of why would a loving God allow such heartache to happen. God does not allow evil, it is part of our sinful world in which we have free will to choose how we live. God hates to see us suffer, but He allows pain to enter our life for a purpose. He uses our pain to help us grow deeper roots in faith and shows you how to help others who are suffering in a similar way. It is a powerful testimony.

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Suffering is not an obstacle to you being used by God. It is an opportunity for you to be used like never before.

Levi uses the famous quote from Aaïs Nin, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”  to show that the world is not fixed in some pattern. It can be viewed from many different points and it changes according to who is watching it.

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There is a two part sermon series that goes along with this book. I am posting the sermon notes below along with a link to the sermon.

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An Important piece in the armor of God in my battle plan for My current mania

Sword of the Spirit

The Word of God  – When we are tempted, the most effective weapon that God has given to us as believers is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Jesus modeled this so beautifully during His temptation in the wilderness. When the devil tried temptation after temptation against Him, Jesus used the sword of the Spirit. Jesus spoke the Word of God to Satan. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord God only. Him only you shall serve.” and again brought the Scripture back into context, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

Key Scripture

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

Key Thought

Suffering is not an obstacle to you being used by God, it is an opportunity for you to be used like never before.

How to See through the Eyes of a Lion

  1. Don’t rely on the naked eye.
  2. Train for the trial you’re not yet in.
  3. Let God use your pain.

More Scripture

Ephesians 1:17-19Colossians 3:2Psalm 34:151 Samuel 16:7

Start talking. Find a conversation starter for your group.

  • Pastor Levi talked about the 1990’s for a second. So, about the 90’s … want them back, or glad they’re gone?
  • What did Pastor Levi say that you’re still thinking about?

Start thinking. Ask a thoughtful question.

  • Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Do you give more energy and focus to “seen” earthly struggles or “unseen” eternal things?
  • Think of one of the worst things that’s happened to you. How does the depth of its impact compare to the length of eternity? How often do you consider eternity?

Start sharing. Choose questions that create openness.

  • Read Ephesians 1:17-19. Pastor Levi described how lions’ eyes don’t get more light, they fully use what’s there. What’s blocking light, or hindering your vision?
  • Where do you think you’d be weakest in a trial? How will you train for a trial you’re not yet in?
  • What God-given insight or opportunity might your eyes be opened to because of pain you’ve experienced?
  • Have you seen past pain turn into opportunity? Can you share your story?

Start praying. Be bold, and pray with power.

Heavenly Father, we want to see our pain through Your eyes, through the eyes of a Lion. Help us fix our eyes on the length of eternity and the strength of Your Holy Spirit living in us. Show us how You are turning our pain into power for Your purpose. Amen!

Start doing. Commit to a step and live it out this week.

  • Choose a painful moment and ask to see it from God’s perspective. Each day, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the opportunities you now have.
  • Ask God to help you see the unseen this week. Make note of any time you sense Him expanding your vision. Come ready to share next week.
  • Read Pastor Levi’s Bible Plan: www.go2.lc/eyesofalion

Get this in your inbox. Visit go2.lc/emailme

 

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Battling Bipolar Mania

image

Racing mind never stops
Thoughts run out
In uncontrollable speech
driving others mad

I see myself causing anxiety
But am unable to stop
I prefer depression
No one knows what is going on inside

My mania overflows and
Cannot be contained within
Fully exposed and vulnerable
Unable cope with life

Forever writing lists and setting alarms
Help me focus despite my desire to accomplish
Every random thought that pops into my mind
I get a LOT done, but
My long disorganized process
Concerns everyone around me and
distracts me from pressing responsibilities

I don’t know what to do
It’s never been this bad

God please take this!
Heal me help me
Strengthen me
I know you are there
and will not give me more
than I can take so you
Must think I’m pretty strong

wordle

Stigma

Taking the mask off describes my experience with the stigma of mental illness so well. In our society we feel the need to hide our true selves as we would not be accepted for who we are. People who do have not experienced mental illness do not understand, and often think it is all in our heads. Going to therapy and taking medication show weakness. For trichotillomania there is an extreme stigma. “You pull your hair out, why don’t you just stop?”. Yes, if it was that easy do you really think 4% of the population would be doing this!? Geez it’s not like I want to spent my time pulling, thinking about pulling, trying not to pull, and hiding my pulling. If everyone had a little more compassion, this world would be a lot different.

Never judge a person until you’ve walk a mile in their shoes.

I blog about my personal struggle with trichotillomania and bipolar disorder. I also discuss helpful strategies, reflections, and treatments.

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