How to naturally increase serotonin in the human brain
Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is called the 'happy chemical' because it contributes to well-being and happiness.
Research on the association between various polymorphisms and depression supports the idea that serotonin plays a role, not only in the treatment of depression but also in susceptibility to depression and suicide.
How to increase serotonin
Non-pharmacologic methods of raising brain serotonin may not only improve mood and social functioning of healthy people, but it may also help to protect against the onset of various mental and physical disorders.
Reducing stress is a key strategy; sustained stress over long periods can lead to elevated hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone), which can reduce serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain.
Try the following seven methods to naturally increase the levels of serotonin in your brain.
Exposure to light
Bright light is, of course, a standard treatment for seasonal depression, but a few studies also suggest that it is an effective treatment for non-seasonal depression and also reduces depressed mood in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder and in pregnant women suffering from depression.
Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day. Perhaps when you are on your break at work, go and grab some fresh air.
Get some exercise
In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which works on behalf of the NHS and makes recommendations on treatments according to the best available evidence, has published a guide on the treatment of depression.
The guide recommends treating mild clinical depression with various strategies, including exercise rather than antidepressants, because the risk-benefit ratio is poor for antidepressant use in patients with mild depression.
Exercise improves mood. The goal is to get your heart rate up.
Other good aerobic exercises include:
- brisk walking
Choose the right foods
Food which contains tryptophan will also help to increase your serotonin level. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin in the body.
Here are some foods which contain tryptophan:
- nuts and seeds
- dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
Up your intake of vitamin D
Vitamin D, the vitamin which is formed only by solar radiation, could be the most important 'missing' vitamin for your mood. Deficiency of this vitamin is widespread in the population. Too low of a concentration may be responsible for depression. Vitamin D regulates conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.
Research shows that facing daily life, and your interactions with others with a positive outlook, can significantly boost your serotonin levels.
Some other ways of working on positivity include:
- expressing gratitude (write down three things you are grateful for on a daily basis)
- self-hypnosis or relaxation
- listen to positive music
- Reiki healing
- smile more
- positive affirmations
- when you think about your problems, focus on the solutions rather than the problem itself (remember, what you focus on shall expand)
- use essential oils to uplift your mood, e.g. sweet orange
- practice self-love
- practice feeling good
Research studies have shown that meditation can effectively increase serotonin naturally. As if that’s not enough, regular meditation is also known to increase the body’s levels of other important mood-enhancing neurochemicals, such as DHEA, GABA, endorphins, and melatonin. It is safe, easy to do, and its positive effects can be immediately felt.
Get a massage
Studies have found serotonin levels increase after a massage.