Almost everyone has those moments when they feel blue. You may have difficulties focusing, feel lethargic, or battle negative emotions. While it is normal to feel so sometimes, it may be a symptom of low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone responsible for numerous psychological functions, including regulating mood, improving sleep, and promoting concentration.
Low serotonin levels result in mood conditions, attention difficulties, addictions, and memory problems. While there are numerous medications to increase serotonin in the body, they may have adverse side effects, and their effectiveness is variable. Consequently, most people prefer non-drug treatments to boost serotonin naturally for a healthier life.
Please continue reading to learn more about serotonin, its importance, and eight lifestyle and dietary strategies you can use to enhance happiness and well-being by boostong serotonin.
Understanding Serotonin and its Role
With such amazing benefits who would not like to boost their serotonin levels. But, before we dwell into the details of how to increase serotonin, let us first find out more about Serotonin and its role in our body.
Serotonin prominently known as the happiness neurotransmitter, is a biochemical messenger in the brain supporting many functions in the body. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin transmits messages between the brain’s central nervous system and the body’s peripheral nervous system.
The neurotransmitter is popular for its role in regulating mood and emotion. It stabilizes your mood, influences learning and memory, and generates happiness and well-being. Also, this amazing neurotransmitter aids in bodily functions like heart health, digestion, sexual behavior, body temperature, muscular control, and blood pressure.
It also plays a vital role in digestion, protecting the gut, and controlling bowel function. In fact, most of the serotonin in the body is found in the gastrointestinal tract.
When someone has low serotonin levels, they are likely to become anxious, irritable, and pessimistic and report irregular sleep and appetite. Lack of serotonin contributes to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, panic disorders, suicidal behavior, and digestive issues. Fortunately, you can increase serotonin levels in the body for greater health and well-being.
How to Increase Serotonin Naturally
Sun Exposure and Outdoor Activities
You have more reasons to love soaking in the sun, whether basking or enjoying outdoor activities. The sun is an invaluable vitamin D source for serotonin production. So, if you are wondering how to increase serotonin, consider basking in the sun regularly.
Research proves that people tend to have high serotonin levels in summer than in winter. The modern way of life sees people spend more time indoors, away from the sun and outdoors, reducing serotonin levels and increasing the likelihood of mood disorders.
Sun exposure goes a long way to boost your mood and mental health. An article titled What Mental Health Needs is More Sunlight contends that when sunlight hits your eyes, it stimulates the production of serotonin, offering feelings of joy and pleasure and increasing stress tolerance. The brain breaks down serotonin to melanin at night to induce sleep and improve sleep quality.
A well-balanced diet not only benefits your physical health but also your mental well-being. Foods that increase serotonin levels and, in turn, boost mood, and cognitive function include;
- Carbohydrates like bread, pastries, popcorn, potatoes, and pasta enhance insulin levels and the intake of tryptophan into the brain, where it is converted into serotonin.
- Vitamin D food sources like soy, eggs, cheese, and milk
- Omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds
- High-protein and low-fat foods like poultry
- Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and spinach are rich in iron and tryptophan
- Herbs: In animal studies, St John’s Wort and turmeric fuel the production of serotonin in rats. However, further research is necessary to test the efficacy of these herbs in human users.
Ample sleep is fundamental for the brain and psychological well-being. It is also crucial in maintaining serotonin balance since the brain produces a significant amount of the neurotransmitter during sleep. Contrariwise, lack of sleep or poor sleep quality may disrupt serotonin receptors and increase the risk for depression and risk-taking behavior. Also, sleep-deficient people have problems controlling emotions, solving problems, and making decisions.
Stress is an enemy of serotonin, with chronic stress-reducing serotonin levels. When stressed, the body releases cortisol, decreasing serotonin and harming mental health. Consequently, stress reduction can help boost serotonin naturally. Here are a few tips for alleviating stress.
- Get physically active
- Adhere to a nutrient-dense diet
- Minimize screen time
- Lower caffeine intake
- Learn to say NO
- Spend time with loved ones
- Stay on top of priorities
- Set aside time for self-care
Engaging in physical activity is a good strategy for increasing serotonin in the brain. A Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience article affirms that physical activity boosts the release and synthesis of serotonin. Also, the fatigue you experience after exercising increases brain tryptophan and serotonin synthesis.
Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity can boost serotonin levels by 100%, improving mood, concentration, and cognition. Also, yoga can enhance serotonin by blending physical movement with mindfulness, thus enhancing mental health.
Besides having a heavenly smell, essential oils can enhance mood and health. They increase attentiveness, improve sleep, kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, and alleviate headaches and nausea. According to Healthline, certain essentials like rosemary, sweet orange, chamomile, and lavender induce the production of serotonin while offering anxiety-inducing effects.
Care for Your Gut
Keeping your gut in check is an overlooked but important way to increase naturally occurring serotonin in the body while enhancing your mood. With the gut providing a majority of serotonin in the body, its health is essential in boosting serotonin levels. Also, gut issues affect serotonin production and reduce its levels substantially.
Similarly, low serotonin levels may result in gut problems such as constipation, eating disorders, and appetite problems. Excellent ways to care for your gut include eating fiber-rich foods, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and lowering stress. Subsequently, you keep the feel-good neurotransmitters flowing in your body and enhance mental health.
Positive Mood Induction
Some studies affirm that pleasant experiences such as listening to good music, taking nature walks, and watching favorite films may increase serotonin levels. For instance, listening to music can increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood while lowering blood pressure and stress hormones. Likewise, meditation and massages enhance mood and serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for multiple functions in the body, from sleep to mood and digestion. In high levels, serotonin evokes calmness, happiness, contentment, wellness, and a positive mood.
Include the strategies above into your lifestyle, increase your serotonin levels, and harness many emotional, mental, and physical benefits for a happier and healthier life. However, these strategies should not substitute medical care; you should seek help for mental health concerns.