Boost Serotonin Naturally!
When it comes to the infamous glass of water, do you see it half-full or half-empty? Would you consider yourself an optimist? Are you positive? Are you happy?
Our brains have neurochemicals that actually play a role in our happiness. So, yes, the level of your happiness has something to do with how balanced your brain chemicals are. This could mean either not enough of the feel-good chemicals (hello, serotonin), or too much of the not-so-feel-good chemicals.
The definition of health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not simply the absence of disease or infirmity.1 This means that indeed, happiness is a significant part of being healthy. Having a positive mood essentially contributes to an increased life expectancy. In a nutshell, it wouldn’t hurt to know how to become happy and maintain genuine happiness. And to do that, let’s start with what we know.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that boosts mood, happiness, and provides a sense of wellbeing. Serotonin also plays a role in regulating sleep and helps with digestion.
What does low serotonin look like?
Low serotonin looks like:
- Poor memory
- Low concentration
- Sexual dysfunction
- Digestion troubles
How do you know if you’re low on serotonin?
Low levels of serotonin can be diagnosed based primarily on symptoms. Expressing some or many of the above symptoms strongly suggest an imbalance in neurotransmitters, especially serotonin. A severe imbalance may be suggestive of a movement disorder and can be tested more thoroughly by a doctor; in which case, the natural route of increasing serotonin levels that are further discussed may not be sufficient.
What are the benefits of healthy levels of serotonin?
- Improved positive mood
- Better socialization
- Decreased incidence of depression, anxiety, and stress
- Decreased incidence of physical and movement disorders
How can you increase serotonin naturally?
Because serotonin can be increased through many avenues, there are several natural ways to point out.
I hate beating this dead horse, however, it’s a proven fact that exercise increases serotonin levels. Finding an activity you enjoy that also gets your heart pumping is a guaranteed way to make you happier. While most of us can’t wait until the end of the workout, change your mindset to try and enjoy the activity from start to finish. This makes exercising more purposeful because dreading having to exercise does not necessarily help make this happiness-boosting tip, well, credible. Walk, jog, run, jump rope, hula-hoop, lift weights, Pilates, or play a sport.
Sunlight is a direct source of vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes the production of, you guessed it, serotonin. Exposing your brain (and body) to the bright sunlight during the daytime is optimal. The sun is always present at the appropriate times. To maximize your light exposure during the day and depend on light exposure less later in the day. This will prevent your body from being confused when your levels of serotonin during the day begin to transition to melatonin at night. (Hence, why many people use the supplement melatonin to help them fall asleep).
- Healthy Gut
When your digestive system functions like a well-oiled machine, your levels of serotonin are likely to remain on the upside. If you’re having trouble going, try this tea.
Increasing foods that contain tryptophan in your diet will help to maintain balanced levels of serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids in the formation of serotonin in your body. Try foods like:
- Poultry (ex. Turkey)
Is there anything else to know about serotonin?
Unfortunately, there are some recreational drugs that can increase serotonin levels. This is not an invitation to go out and try illegal activities, but it’s a real warning against it. The short and sweet increase in serotonin from abusing substances like ecstasy or MDMA results in a crash once these substances wear off. When the serotonin high is over, your mood transitions into an even lower level of serotonin and consequently a worse mood of depression, memory problems, and confusion. The intense temporary fluctuations in serotonin can result in days worth of mood changes out of your control.
These tips alone are not a cure for any less-than-happy feelings. Always seek help if you are experiencing low mood or any other symptoms of low serotonin, as it may be a result of an issue that needs more attention than natural remedies. In addition, remember these tips support you in a way that decreases the loss of serotonin, rather than directly increasing the serotonin in your brain, and are not a substitute for appropriate medical care.
If you would like to learn more on this topic, you can purchase this book which is a great read and very informative: The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs–Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant