HomeDIY CraftHow to Make a Dopamine Menu for Gardening

How to Make a Dopamine Menu for Gardening

If your screen use has reached an all-time high, you’re not alone. From TV to video games to social media, we often turn to these devices for quick entertainment and small doses of dopamine. But it is not too late to change the situation! As a gardener, your love of the outdoors and all things green can be turned into a highly beneficial dopamine menu.

How to Create a Dopamine Menu for Gardening

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to stay away from screens. Unless you’re doing a digital detox challenge or are out in the woods with no reception, you probably have some type of screen you rely on for daily entertainment.

If you’re reading this, it means you’re looking at a screen right this very moment! And since I reminded you while you’re scrolling, please keep reading, because I promise what I’m about to tell you will be a game changer in terms of reducing your screen time.

Since my child was young, I have tried to keep him away from screens. Which, for his generation, is a hard thing to do. I make sure we read together, play board games, go on walks, cook together and more to reduce how often we both have our eyes glued to the screen.

The Dopamine Menu is a relatively new trend and tool that people can use to find new sources of dopamine outside of the screen. And because I’m a woman whose basic survival depends heavily on plants, I knew I needed to create a dopamenu for gardening.

Today, I’ll show you how you can create your own dopamine menu for gardening and why you should do so.

Are screens bad for us?

We understand that spending too much time on screens can be harmful to our health, but what is the science behind it?

Harvard Medical School Says screens can affect human brain development. Young brains are constantly forming new neural connections and cutting out any that they don’t use frequently. Screens can affect how our brain makes these connections.

Screens provide a simulated version of what we experience in real life. Essentially, they are weaker versions of our experiences, and so the neural connections being made are not as “strong.”

“Boredom is the place where creativity and imagination take place,” says Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. And I think that really summarizes how screens have fulfilled our endless need for entertainment.

Why do you think our best thinking happens in the shower? Or if you’re like me, when I’m pottering in the garden.

Create Dopamenu to reduce screen time
I still have screens in my house, but I try to be conscious of my usage.

screens and sleep

Screen use has also been reported at bedtime Proven To disturb sleep. Before sleep, our body begins to produce melatonin in response to darkness. But devices that emit blue light will suppress our melatonin and affect our ability to achieve REM sleep, which is essential for processing and storing information.

This means that the next day, you may be more tired and less likely to process and retain new information. AKA, have a good memory.

Screen and mood

Some? studies Screen time has also been linked to symptoms of depression. And I can totally understand why. Beyond the trap of constantly comparing ourselves on social media, many people rely on screen activities as a way to cope with stress. So when we live without screens, our anxiety can increase.

Dopamine Menu for Gardening
Being outside instantly improves my mood.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a major factor in why we love screens so much. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that our nervous system uses to send messages. It is a chemical that spreads through the brain and body as a messenger of pleasure.

Dopamine works as a reward system. Doing activities you enjoy will release dopamine. How much is released depends on the activity and its frequency.

Many things use this natural reward system, like drugs and alcohol, and yes, our beloved screens. Initially, they give us a huge amount of dopamine. But then they become less the more you use it.

It’s fun to watch an episode of a show. Bingeing the entire series? After this you may feel tired and lethargic.

In response to decreasing dopamine, we either move to a different activity to get a new reward or increase the initial activity to try to get more.

orange and yellow tulips
Darwin Hybrids ‘Elite Appledorn’ Tulip

Dopamenu is a tool we can use to help us find new sources of dopamine when we feel we need a pick-me-up.

Originally developed by Jessica McCabe, its original purpose was to help people with ADHD. It is thought that people with ADHD have low levels of dopamine and need to constantly find new dopamine hits.

Dopamenu contains a list of starters, mains, sides, desserts and specials. Each of these categories has different activities or different lengths that you can use when you are looking for stimulation.

Basically, it’s a quick customized list of things that you know will make you happy.

While originally a tool for ADHD, I think everyone can benefit from the Dopamine Menu. This is a useful tool for stepping away from screens, getting outside, and finding more sustainable dopamine hits.

And as a gardener, you know I had to make a list of things I could do in the garden to connect myself with nature. Nature has many mental health benefits (which I talk about in this post), and trying activities outside can double your benefits.

Dopamine Menu Ideas
Working out can have immense benefits.

I highly encourage you to create your own dopamine menu. Over time, fill it with activities you love to do outside and in your garden. Ultimately, you’ll have a bigger list when you need ideas to lift yourself up and move forward.

Here are some of my suggestions that you can use as a jumping-off point for your own DopaMenu.


These are quick, 5-minute activities you can do to take a break and get outside.

Snake plant sitting on a pile of books next to a brass watering can on the windowsill
A dopamine menu can also be a good reminder to check on your plants.


These activities take more time and are great if you have an hour or more.


These activities serve as nice add-ons when you’re already outside.


These are the activities in which you often default. It’s best not to waste too much time on them, but they are good in small, planned doses.

  • scroll through social media
  • buy seeds
  • enjoy cocktails outside
  • Shop at the Garden Center
  • watch a favorite tv show
  • play video games


These activities are not your everyday activities. They may be expensive or more time-consuming than others, but they are still worthwhile.

seed library
Seed libraries are a great way to connect with your local gardening community.

What would you put on your dopamine menu for gardening? Let me know in the comments below so we can all be inspired when creating our own dopamines for gardening.

Dopamine Menu for Gardening

More ways to enjoy gardening


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