Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin Levels in The Brain
If you are familiar with this site then you know that I don’t like prescription drugs. But hey, I have used a lot of them myself so I’m not pointing any fingers here at all…
…nowadays, however, I prefer natural ways to deal with anxiety and stress as well as natural ways to deal with depression and other mood issues.
Some of those “natural ways” means increasing our serotonin levels and in this blog post I’m going to give a few tips on how to do exactly that.
So are you ready for it?
Good! Here we go:
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It is one of our most researched, and talked about, neurotransmitter probably because lack of it is by many considered to be almost an epidemic in modern countries today. About 90% of our serotonin is located in the GI tract, where it is used to make sure our intestinal movements are working properly…
…the rest can be found in the brain where it helps nerve cells to communicate and is involved in core processes such as regulating sleep, appetite, mood, anxiety, fear and so on.
Serotonin is produced in your gut and in your brain from the conversion L-tryptophan. Tryptophan, on the other hand, is an amino acid and amino acids can be called “the bodies building blocks” Building blocks for proteins and other vital compounds such as our neurotransmitters.
What are the symptoms of low serotonin levels?
Speaking for myself I can recognize the days/periods I have low serotonin levels by a few symptoms like
- Watery eyes
- Higher levels of anxiety
- When things go wrong I ten to make it a catastrophe even if it’s just a small “speed bumb”
- I tend to take stuff more personally and get more easily offended
- My self esteem is lower and I fail to see the point in achieving my goals that I have set for myself
We are all individuals and that’s just my personal symptoms. Here are the symptoms that science presents as general consequences of low serotonin levels:
- Panic attacks
- Social Phobia
- Muscle pain
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
#1 Being out in the sun
Spending time outside when the sun is shining is an excellent way to naturally increase serotonin levels in the brain. It is also one of the more pleasant ways on this list.
In addition to raising our serotonin levels, being out in the sun and exposing our skin to the sunlight is a natural way to get vitamin D. It is difficult to get optimal levels from food alone, almost impossible, so make an effort to spend some time outside daily. Just make sure not to burn yourself in the sun.
The serotonin increase we get from the sun happens quickly and it is possible to feel the effects in just a few minutes. If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck then do some form of exercise while you are outside…
…which leads me to the next point on the list:
Physical exercises is a given on this list. If a person is having mood issues or problems with panic attacks and anxiety, due to low levels of serotonin, exercise is the first weapon of choice.
Studies have shown that physical exercise increases both dopamine and serotonin levels. Not only that but it also helps to balance them and put them in the right proportion to each other. Exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin. (Prescription antidepressant with the first one targeting serotonin and the second one targeting dopamine).
There are hundreds and hundreds of studies made on the health benefits of physical exercise, both for the body and the brain. In addition to this the habit in itself makes your self-esteem grow, and as a result of that, your serotonin levels will increase even further, creating a virtuos circle (the opposite of a viciouc cycle).
What kind of exercise is best for increasing serotonin levels in the brain?
All kinds of physical exercise increase serotonin levels in the brain, from aerobic exercise, like running, walking, cycling and so on, to strength training and even yoga. That said, most of the research is done on aerobic exercise and many of the studies points to aerobic exercise as the most effective form when it comes to increasing serotonin levels….
…but not so fast here!
Here’s the deal:
There are also interesting research done on our attitude towards exercise. Those studies actually show that if we enjoy doing a certain form of exercise it delivers even more positive benefits. So with that in mind the “best” exercise to do is, for sure, the one you enjoy doing the most. If you are struggling to get started, however, then perhaps I can rephrase that to: choose the exercise that is the LEAST repulsive.
#3 Getting a massage
A few studies show that getting a massage increases the serotonin levels in the brain. They also stay elevated for quite some time after the massage so it is indeed a useful tool.
A study made on babies that had depressed mothers showed that the babies serotonin levels increased by 35% following a 6 week massage routine with the babies getting a massage twice a week for 15 minutes at a time. There are also studies showing that massage helps people suffering from migraines by boosting their serotonin levels in the brain…
…and if you remember from the beginning of the post, migraines are one of the symptoms of low serotonin levels. So in conclusion, getting a massage can result in happy endings…
…in several ways.
Natural ways to increase serotonin levels in the brain
#4 Eating the right foods
A natural way to increase serotonin levels in the brain is by eating specific foods. We want to choose foods that are high in the amino acid L-Tryptophan so that it later can get converted into serotonin.
Here are some of the foods that you should eat more of if you want to increase serotonin levels in the brain:
- Nuts and seeds
Eating some of these foods is not enough however. A couple of hours AFTER you have eaten any of these foods you want to make sure to eat a small amount of carbohydrates. This is because the carbs will give a slight insulin spike and that spike will help the tryptophan, that by now is circulating in your blood stream, cross the blood brain barrier. Once in the brain the converting process will start.
#5 Being grateful and thinking of happy events
This is perhaps the simples of all the pointers…and may also perhaps seem a bit naive, but do not underestimate it because it is backed up by a lot of research.
Sit down and close you eyes. Take slow and deep breaths and think of specific times in your life that something fun happened. Something that made you happy. Studies show that this is very powerful and it significantly increases serotonin levels in the brain…
…along with our mood, self esteem, positive out look and even a stronger immune system. I would suggest you do this for five minutes in the morning and another five minutes in the late afternoon.
#6 Natural supplements
When it comes to natural ways to increase serotonin levels supplements can be of great help. You want to make sure you choose a high quality brand and be sure too look for positive testimonials on the website you are ordering from.
Here are a few supplements that are proven to increase your serotonin levels:
- St. Johns Wort
- Omega 3’s
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) and B12
There is a special supplement I personally use for this purpose. Those who are familiar with my other articles have probably already read about it. I use it for my anxiety and depression and I really must say that it does a good job increasing my mood and lowering my anxiety levels as well as increasing my self esteem. I notice the effects about 45-60 minutes after taking a capsule and the effect is cumulative, meaning it builds over time and get’s even more beneficial if I use it for a few days in a row.
Is is a natural supplement but, truth be told ,it works even better that the prescription drugs ever did for me…
…and, as a small side note, I am happy to say that it is now 8 years since I took my last prescription antidepressant drug.
If you are interested in learning more about it and read what other has to say about this supplement you can click here to to find the webpage where it is located
WARNING: If you already are on an antidepressant you should avoid, or at least be VERY careful, trying out supplements that increase serotonin levels in the brain. When in doubt, ALWAYS ask you doctor first!!!
This one is related to #5 but the difference here is that you are just going to observe your thoughts and not try to think of anything specific at all.
Meditation has been shown to increase both serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine more than serotonin but it is still a good tool to have in your toolbox.
Just sit down, close your eyes and follow your breath. In and out. Personally I like to turn my focus to my nostrils, feeling the air going in to my nose and then I shift my focus to my lips on the out breath, feeling the air passing through my lips. When a thought pops into my head, and believe me they will pop up a lot, I just notice that thought without judgment and I immediately just shift my focus back to my breathing.
For the best effect meditation should be done regularly. Set a goal to meditate 15 minutes every day. For even better effects you can increase the time to 30 or even 60 minutes. But yeah, I know, who can afford to spend so much time on “doing nothing” in todays world. 15 minutes is all I feel I can put aside for meditation myself, and to be honest, I don’t practice it every day.
There you have it. Try these 7 natural ways to increase serotonin levels in the brain and start implementing the ones you find most useful into your daily life. If you do that you are almost guaranteed to notice big improvements in how you feel.