INCREASE LEVELS TO FEEL HAPPIER
What is serotonin and why is it important?
What exactly is serotonin and how do you get more into your body?
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a chemical which is primarily found in the brain and plays a role in our emotions, appetite, and several motor and cognitive functions. Its role is mostly as a neurotransmitter, sending messages between various parts of the body.
Most relevant, though, is serotonin’s nickname: the happy chemical. That’s because higher serotonin levels have been linked to a more positive mood (and lower levels to depression). In addition, serotonin also helps regulate our sleep cycle, working as a precursor to melatonin.
If your diet lacks vital B vitamins and amino acids, you’re far more likely to have a serotonin deficiency, which can then affect both your mood and energy levels as a whole.
So, what do you do? Well, first, adjust your diet to consume more of those basic nutrients. However, there are several more all-natural ways of boosting serotonin, making it pretty easy to balance out a potential serotonin deficiency. Keep in mind you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplement — even if it’s just a natural one.
Ways to increase serotonin naturally
1. Herbal supplements
St. John’s Wort, as cringe-worthy as the name is, is an incredibly powerful herb that is often used for treating depression.
However, it’s also been shown to be a natural selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (or SSRI), which helps maintain serotonin in the brain.
Plus, St. John’s Wort is offered in supplement form, so it’s easy to consume and goes perfectly with the rest of the points on this list which are more about increasing serotonin production (while this maintains it).
2. Get more inositol
Inositol, a carbocyclic sugar found in human and other mammal tissue, has been shown in several studies to improve serotonin activity in the brain. In addition, it’s been shown to help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It’s found naturally in many foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, so by improving your diet in this way you can further boost your serotonin levels. However, it’s also conveniently offered as a natural supplement that you can easily throw into a veggie or meal replacement smoothie.
Physical exercise has been shown in several studies to be one of the best ways to boost serotonin production. Specifically, aerobic exercises such as running, biking, and even yoga are best.
However, keep in mind that you need to select an activity you enjoy. It can’t feel forced, but has to be intentional and relaxed.
This might sound like an unimportant side note, however, it turns out that our mental approach to the exercise has a real neurochemical response, likely attributed to the programming we picked up from our ancestors who were either hunting or being hunted, two very different “modes” of response.
4. Improve gut health
Believe it or not, your gut is actually where most of the serotonin in your body is produced. For that reason, improving your gut health can have a big impact on serotonin production.
How do you do that? Get lots of water; eat brain-healthy foods such as walnuts, dark chocolate, and wild fish; and start consuming more probiotics in supplement form and in foods such as yogurt.
5. Get more sunlight
Vitamin D is a critically important vitamin for the body. One of its functions? Promoting serotonin production.
And one of– if not the– single best ways to get more vitamin D? Good ol’ sunlight. Yes, the case can be made that this whole deficiency started because you weren’t getting outside enough. Moving on.
A good alternative to this is to drink milk as it typically has vitamin D added (apparently, in the U.S., because the government thought people weren’t getting outside enough).
Other sources of vitamin D (if you really can’t bother to get more sunlight…) are fatty fish, cheese, and eggs.