10 Natural Serotonin Boosters
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy chemical” of the brain. It is a mood-enhancing chemical that promotes feelings of wellbeing and happiness, regulates hunger, and improves sleep patterns for a more restful and refreshing sleep. Low serotonin can lead to many mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and irritability. Psychiatric medications such as selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are frequently prescribed by doctors to increase serotonin levels in the brain and treat mental health ailments. Though helpful, drugs are not always necessary nor warranted. There are several natural and homeopathic ways to increase the body’s serotonin levels in order to promote happiness, relaxation, and overall mental health and wellness. 10 Natural Serotonin Boosters
What are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication. SSRIs work by preventing serotonin reabsorption by the body to maintain higher serotonin levels in the brain. Higher levels of serotonin improve mood and decrease depression.
The following are all common types of SSRIs prescribed to treat mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
While one can go the medication route to increase their mood-enhancing serotonin levels, more holistic and natural ways can be achieved. Many fear the side-effects of psychotropic medications and feel that a natural homeopathic route is preferential. Below you will find a list of natural serotonin boosters to increase your happiness, mood, and overall wellbeing.
The 10 Natural Serotonin Boosters
Not only can sunlight boost mood, but it can also result in better sleep, help vitamin D production, strengthen bones, and help fight certain diseases. Sunshine is a natural, easy, and cost-effective way to take a break, enjoy the weather and catch a daily dose of serotonin. The weather doesn’t have to be perfect to reap these sun-producing serotonin benefits either! Bright Light Therapy can be safely utilized in the comfort of one’s home during the darker winter seasons—a time when seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression) can be at its peak. Light therapy mimics sunlight, which promotes serotonin and thus increases energy and improves mood.
2. Reduced Sugar
Cutting sugar out of your diet works to increase serotonin, decrease inflammation, boost your energy levels, and improve your ability to focus. Studies indicate increased rates of depression with high sugar consumption for both men and women. In fact, men who consume 67 grams of sugar or more per day are 23% more likely to experience depression after five years, while men who consume 40 grams of sugar or less have lower risks for depression. Instead of sugar, try fresh, high-fiber, whole foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables.
3. Vitamin B
We all know the importance of taking our daily vitamins. But did you know vitamin B not only increases serotonin but also improves mood, combats stress, expands brain function, and helps fight cancer? Vitamin B is an essential factor in the creation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Without a solid foundation of the vitamin, B-12 deficiencies can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, and overall mental fogginess. But don’t worry—B-12 vitamins can easily be consumed by engaging in a healthy diet consisting of high B-12 foods such as meat, fish, or dairy. Individuals who are B-12 deficient may also benefit from adding a B-12 supplement to their diet, especially those who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Remember to always check in with a licensed medical professional before starting a new supplement or diet regimen!
4. Positive Thinking
Most of us have heard of the power of positive thinking. Positive thinking increases serotonin, improves mood, increases the lifespan, reduces depression rates, enhances the immune system, and promotes better psychological and physical wellbeing. Not sure how to spark your positive thinking habits? Why not try a gratitude journal, positive daily affirmations, mindfulness meditation, or psychotherapy exercises intended to improve positive thinking patterns (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT))? There is no risk to trying some positive thinking activities—just serotonin and happiness to be gained!
Protein increases B-12 vitamins and tryptophan levels in the body, increasing serotonin and improving mood. Tryptophan is an amino acid vital to the production of serotonin in the body. Unfortunately, people cannot produce tryptophan in their bodies and must obtain it from their diet. Luckily, consuming protein is an easy and delicious way to increase our body’s tryptophan levels. High tryptophan and serotonin promoting proteins include tuna, turkey, chicken, beef, liver, and salmon.
6. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are not only nutritious, but they provide antioxidants that may lower cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce inflammation, and improve mood, energy, and brain function. Like protein, nuts and seeds increase serotonin levels through their high concentration of tryptophan. In fact, research indicates that plant-based sources of tryptophan (e.g., nuts and seeds) are more effective serotonin boosters when compared to their animal-based counterparts. That’s because the way our bodies digest plant-based sources of tryptophan allow greater tryptophan absorption. So next time you feel like snacking, why not go for some serotonin-boosting nuts and seeds? Some of our favorites include butternut, walnut, pumpkin, squash, chia, sunflower, flax, pistachio, cashew, almond, and hazelnut.
Not only do massages feel good, but they also increase serotonin, reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and increase joint mobility and flexibility. Massages promote relaxation by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, leading to a feel-good serotonin chemical spike. In fact, a 60-minute massage reduces cortisol levels by an average of 30% and consequently increases serotonin levels by an average of 28%. By lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin, massages boost your body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety, and feelings of sadness. So next time you need a spa day, remind yourself that you are doing something helpful for your mind, body, and soul!
Exercise is widely known for its numerous health and wellness benefits. Aerobic exercise — walking, running, biking and swimming — significantly increases serotonin production in the body. The type of activity you engage in doesn’t matter as you are having fun and increasing your heart rate! All you need is about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to get the serotonin ”high.” So, do yourself a favor and schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Better yet, take your workout outdoors to reap the triple serotonin-enhancing benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise!
Meditation is a growing trend that is often hyped up but for valid reasons. Meditation helps naturally promote serotonin production and can help you manage stress, increase self-awareness, focus, improve mood, and increase creativity and productivity. Not only that, but it takes just 10-15 minutes of meditation per day to help re-wire the brain for serotonin enhancing relaxation, stress relief, and happiness. Instead of that wastefully consuming 10-minute social media break, why not engage in a quick, calming, serotonin-boosting mediation break? You’ll thank yourself later.
Psychotherapy is a first-line treatment in addressing mental health ailments and concerns. Psychotherapy is also a useful and productive means of learning all of the skills and strategies needed to lead a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. With the help of your therapist, you will learn techniques to increase daily serotonin-boosting habits. You will also work collaboratively with your therapist to implement a treatment plan that best fits your unique goals, hopes, needs, and life circumstances.
Take the Next Step
Interested in learning more about psychotherapy and serotonin-boosting habits? Contact us at Washington Psychological Wellness to discuss which services can best meet you and your family’s needs. Our qualified mental health professionals are available to provide assessments, play therapy, individual therapy for adolescents, teenagers, adults, and family therapy.
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