22 Ways to Increase Serotonin Levels
Serotonin is the "feel-good" chemical with a variety of functions in the human body. While dopamine releases the happy hormone, serotonin stabilizes the mood. The two can go hand in hand. Serotonin, sometimes considered a hormone, is a neurotransmitter the body uses to send messages between nerve cells. Serotonin plays a role in our mood, sleep, emotions, appetite, and digestion. People with low levels of serotonin (also known as a serotonin deficiency), find themselves feeling tired, irritable, and unable to function properly. To help combat this, we've compiled a few methods on how to get more serotonin including foods high in serotonin, exercise and serotonin, sunlight, and more. All are ways to increase serotonin naturally and safely.
#1. Spend Time in Nature
Stepping outside into nature can lower stress and enhance our mood. Enjoying the natural beauty of the world can help with overall serotonin production. The secret lies in breathing in fresh air. Fresh air provides a boost of oxygen in your brain, which then boosts your serotonin levels.
#2. Get Serotonin from the Sun, Even on Cloudy Days
Can you get serotonin from the sun?
Bask in the sun rays as vitamin D from the sun allows our body to convert tryptophan into serotonin. The brighter the sun, the higher the serotonin production. Vitamin D and serotonin go hand-in-hand. Even on days where the sun hides behind the cloud, any natural bright light will allow you to improve your overall mood and stabilize serotonin. Sunlight is perhaps one of the most beneficial natural sources of serotonin.
One study found a direct correlation with sunlight, seasonality, and serotonin turnover in the brain. Production of serotonin in the brain is much less during winter (when sunlight is scarce) compared to in the summer. This plays a major role in depressive conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression).
#3. Add Vitamin D Supplements to Your Regimen
Although we recommend getting vitamin D from the sun, those cold winter months might be challenging. Vitamin D supplements are a great alternative, as they can also promote serotonin production. Natural serotonin supplements, like vitamin D, can make a significant difference in your overall health and wellness.
Does Vitamin D Raise Serotonin Levels?
Yes, vitamin D and serotonin levels do have a correlation, although indirect. One study found a link between serotonin synthesis and vitamin D levels. The research found vitamin D to act as a catalyst in the production of serotonin. Vitamin D initiates the gene that makes tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2). This then converts tryptophan into serotonin. Thus, increasing serotonin levels.
#4. Get a Massage
Enjoy a massage because a massage is not only good for relieving stress, but it can raise serotonin levels by as much as 30%.
How Massage Helps Depression
By nature, serotonin can be a key aspect of preventing and lowering symptoms of depression. When getting a massage, serotonin levels increase and cortisol levels (a stress hormone) decrease. Massage helps to relieve stress hormones and improve serotonin levels which aids in relieving depressive symptoms.
#5. Exercise to Boost Serotonin Levels
Get up and move and enjoy light exercises such as yoga, walking, running, and aerobics. These are great ways to increase your serotonin levels. The effects of exercising last hours longer after your workout session.
What Type of Exercise Increases Serotonin?
Aerobic exercise such as running, biking, swimming, and walking is the best exercise for serotonin levels. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise to achieve what's called the serotonin "high." While yes, anaerobic exercises such as weight lifting do increase serotonin levels, studies show they are not as effective compared to aerobic exercise.
Meditation has been studied to relieve stress and enhance mood, thus increasing your serotonin levels. Meditation is a simple way to boost serotonin levels, and only needs 10 minutes per day to be effective.
Does meditation increase serotonin?
Yes, one study on meditation and serotonin found an increase in serotonin amongst participants who meditated compared to a control group. Another eight-week study on the effects of meditation for 30-minutes daily found a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear, anxiety, and stress. Researchers suggest meditation to be beneficial because of its effect on the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
#7. Listen to Music
It is believed that listening to music may increase serotonin. In a lab study with rats, listening to Mozart released more serotonin in the brain.
#8. Try Acupuncture
Acupuncture studied in a clinical trial showed that women who suffered fibromyalgia had increased serotonin levels in the serum compared to placebo. 32 studies on acupuncture and serotonin concluded the practice to improve depressive symptoms while 24 of those studies concluded acupuncture to change the serotonergic mechanism.
Of the 61 studies identified, 37 (n = 27 animal and n = 10 human studies) were included in which investigators used serotonin or serotonin antagonists/agonists to examine the mechanisms of acupuncture for various symptoms. Investigators in 32 studies concluded that acupuncture improved symptoms, and of the 24 studies measuring serotonin, it was concluded that acupuncture changed the serotonergic mechanism.
#9. Focus on the Positive
Focusing on positive memories, also known as mood induction, allows us to not think of adverse events, but it can also increase serotonin production. One study found a direct correlation between mood and serotonin. Positive moods showed increase levels of serotonin while negative moods revealed the opposite.
#10. Practice Gratitude
The emotion of gratitude affects the brain's reward system, according to studies. Being grateful releases dopamine and serotonin. It also has been linked to increased happiness.
Your Daily Dose of Serotonin
"I use this light every morning for 30-40 minutes. After two weeks of daily use I feel more energized and motivated, and I am much more even- keeled emotionally, and much happier in a general sense. Wisconsin has long gray winters and I know this will help me get through this extra gray winter! I highly recommend." - JenSHOP NOW
#11. Try the "Three Blessings Exercise"
Three Blessings Exercise – a studied practice where you write down three things you are thankful for every night for one week. This practice has been shown to improve overall happiness for up to 6 months!
#12. Set Goals and Achieve Them
When we achieve our goals, we become happy. It can send a rush of dopamine, and then we want to reach the next goal. The larger goal, the higher the amount of dopamine. However, smaller goals can be more manageable to achieve and still release dopamine.
#13. Talk to a Therapist
Therapy can be a great way to increase serotonin. It can change your mood and help you cope with stress, depression, and anxiety. Specific treatments, acting as serotonin replacement therapy, might help increase serotonin receptors as well.
#14. Experience New Things
Trying a new experience is a great way to increase serotonin, such as cooking a new recipe or trying a new hobby. The rule of thumb is, the less familiar you are with the activity, the more likely your brain will release dopamine.
#15. Try Turmeric
Turmeric isn't just a spice in our pantries. It can also be used as an antidepressant and increase overall serotonin levels in the brain. Studies of turmeric and serotonin in animals found it to affect serotonin and dopamine, change stress-related parts of the brain, and protect mitochondria.
#16. Eat Tryptophan-rich Foods
Tryptophan-rich foods increase the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Such foods as milk, chicken, eggs, tofu, nuts, turkey, cottage cheese, soy beans, and red meat can increase your tryptophan intake.
Multiple studies have found that increasing tryptophan-rich foods into the diets of subjects have resulted in less depression, irritableness, and anxiety. Consuming tryptophan for serotonin production may result in enhanced mood regulation.
#17. Eat More Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates such as oats, whole grains, barley, buckwheat, yams, and sweet potatoes can also boost serotonin levels. It's important to note the risk of overeating when it comes to carbohydrates. A study on carbohydrates and serotonin found a link between overeating and an increase in mood. Because carbs can enhance one's mood, it may be tempting to overeat.
#18. Add More Vitamin B6 and B12 to Your Diet
Foods rich in Vitamin B6 and B12, such as whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, and avocados, naturally produce serotonin. These natural serotonin foods offer an easy method to create serotonin naturally.
One study found low levels of B6 to be associated with depression. The thought is that adding B6 aids in serotonin production.
#19. Try These Serotonin Vitamins
Serotonin replacement vitamins such as B6 and B12 also produce serotonin in the body. They're a simple and effective method for increasing your serotonin levels if foods high in serotonin are not preferred.
#20. Limit Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sugar Intake
These substances have similar effects in temporarily increasing energy and then cause sudden drops of serotonin levels in the brain once the effects wear off.
One study on the effects of caffeine and serotonin found it to reduce levels of serotonin compared to a group without.
Research on alcohol and serotonin found it to alter multiple aspects of serotonergic signal transmission in the brain. The research found serotonin levels to be low amongst alcoholics.
A rat study on sugar and serotonin levels found it to decrease serotonin metabolism. Another study found long-term sugar-rich diets to reduce the effectiveness of somatodendritic serotonin-1A receptors which are responsible for providing feedback control in the synthesis and release of serotonin.
#21. Focus on a Good Night's Sleep
Sleep is known to counteract stress. Enjoy a restful sleep allows the body to produce serotonin and keep the cortisol production low.
A common cause of depression is the desensitization of the serotonin receptor system. A study of serotonin and sleep limited rats to four hours of sleep per night. The research found that after eight days of limited sleep, the rats serotonin receptor systems had desensitized. Another finding was that it took at least seven days to normalize again.
#22. Try Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and lemon can have therapeutic effects. Using your sense of smell can prompt your brain to release dopamine and serotonin. Note: Do not let young children play with essential oils and always follow instructions on the bottle.
It's well known that serotonin is an essential piece to leading a healthy and fulfilling life. These natural ways to increase serotonin levels can make a significant difference in increasing energy levels, sleep quality, and overall wellness. Which natural way to boost serotonin did you like the best? Did we miss a tip? Leave your comment below and let us know!
About the Author
Bianca Araujo-Mendez is the Director of Brand & Shopper Marketing at Compass Health Brands. She enjoys all things marketing and appreciates knowing the lives of others are enriched when using products from Compass Health Brands.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
It's one thing to say you have the top therapy lamp, but it's another thing to back it with "best light therapy lamp" reviews, articles, mentions, and more. In this article, you'll find links to publications including the New York Times, CNN, Health.com, and more ranking our lights as the best light box therapy lamps.
During the winter, the days get shorter, and our contact with the sun becomes even more limited. Many of us leave for work just as the sun is rising and don’t return home until after it has set, not getting any sunlight at all. While the amount of sunlight we need varies widely depending on our skin tone, age, and other factors, this lack of exposure can inhibit the healthy production of essential hormones. This could disrupt our sleep schedules and contribute to conditions like insomnia, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Bright light therapy lamps, also known as sad lamps or happy lights, provide an artificial alternative to natural light that can help solve this common problem.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is when a person experiences a depression that derives from the lack of light, typically during the fall and winter seasons. The American Psychiatric Association explains that "About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year" (Psychiatry.org) but is treatable. This article will share seasonal affective disorder self-care tips.
The phrase "Winter Blues" and "Seasonal Affective Disorder" are often mentioned interchangeably during the winter season. There is a tendency to use these phrases synonymously, but they are not. One is a condition where the season and lack of light create a depression that affects all parts of their mental health, and the other is a temporary feeling.