Your body naturally manufactures a neurotransmitter called serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) from the amino acid tryptophan. It is then released throughout your body.
It is sometimes referred to as the “happiness hormone” because serotonin levels directly affect your emotional mood, mental concentration, sexuality, and energy levels. Knowing how to boost serotonin naturally is crucial to your overall wellbeing.
The Result of Low Serotonin Levels…
- Impulse control disorders
- Various phobias
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Body dysmorphic disorder (intense focus on a physical flaw – real or imagined)
- Drug or alcohol addiction
Taking supplements isn’t how to boost serotonin levels because they’re unable to pass the blood-brain barrier. Without that ability, the levels in the brain remain unaffected.
Symptoms of Serotonin Deficiency
- Frequent and uncontrollable negative thoughts
- Insomnia (possibly accompanied by tossing and turning)
- Craving sweet or starchy foods
- Aggressive or confrontational behavior
- Unexplained paranoia, fear, or panic
- Thoughts of physical harm to self or others
- Emotional eating
- Lapses in memory or concentration
- Lack of interest in activities that once brought pleasure (more common in women)
- Impulsive or high-risk behavior (more common in men)
Approximately 90% of the serotonin in your body is found in your gastrointestinal system and impacts how your body processes food. Serotonin also contributes to your sleep cycle, dreaming, blood clotting, sexual desire, body temperature, pH levels, and appetite control.
Your body needs tryptophan and vitamin B6 to produce serotonin. A poor diet increases your risk of serotonin deficiency.
5 Natural Ways to Boost Serotonin
Ditch the processed food that drains your stores and provides nothing in the way of nutrition. Limit high-sugar foods or simple carbs – such as white rice or flour – that create “false happiness” for short periods of time before causing your system to crash.
If you have issues with maintaining serotonin, avoid caffeine as well since it suppresses production of the hormone. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated as well.
A good rule of thumb is protein three times every day and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding serotonin-producing foods such as wild seafood, organic meats (especially turkey) and eggs, beans, nuts, peanut butter, bananas, flaxseeds, and dark chocolate to your daily intake, is how to boost serotonin from the inside out.
Even when it’s cold or you’re stuck inside, you can dance in your office or follow along to a yoga video to get your body moving. It causes a spike in tryptophan which leads to more serotonin.
The effect of working out – even low impact – lasts for hours after you’re done!
3. Reduce Stress:
The presence of chronic stress means an excess of cortisol (the stress hormone) pumping through your body. Not only does cortisol deplete serotonin, it leads to chronic inflammation that is the root cause of many serious diseases. Lowering your physical, mental, and emotional stress is vital to your entire body.
An excellent B-complex vitamin may help you better deal with everyday stresses. Vitamin B6 is important for the manufacture of serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine – all hormones that contribute to overall mood.
Serotonin levels are highest during the summer months and in tropical climates. During the winter months and for those who live in a perpetually cloudy or cold environment, serotonin levels can drop dangerously low.
Bringing as much light into your indoor space and taking a vitamin D3 supplement may alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Getting 15 minutes of sun exposure on your bare face and hands during the morning or late afternoon will boost vitamin D levels naturally, which signals the production of serotonin and dopamine.
5. Positive Activities:
Listening to music, treating yourself to a massage, practicing twenty minutes of meditation, or expressing yourself creatively are excellent ways to sooth stress, calm the body, and boost serotonin.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to rest so your body can recuperate from the daily wear and tear you probably experience in our modern world. Try to get eight solid hours every night for optimal benefit. Spend time with friends and loved ones, engage in conversation, or take up a hobby that has always interested you.
Some experts believe that serotonin deficiency is as dangerous (and as common) as the obesity epidemic. There are definite possibilities that the two are connected but more research will need to be done.
Knowing how to boost serotonin is critical to your continued feelings of happiness and overall wellbeing. Right now, take a moment to do a self-evaluation on your “happiness meter.” Make a plan to get those numbers up.
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unable to find your happiness, don’t do it alone! Talk to a friend, a family member, your church leader, or your medical doctor. Low serotonin levels are linked to major depressive disorder and should never be ignored.