Serotonin is a word that’s bandied around a lot these days. Although you probably know that it is a good thing to have more of, you might not be entirely sure what exactly it is, or how you can get more of it in your life.
Never fear, you have come to the right place.
What Is Serotonin?
In layman’s terms, serotonin is a chemical that nerve cells produce that sends signals between them. It has an incredible effect on the functioning of the whole body, including the brain. It impacts the most basic and vital things you do such as: sleeping, eating and digesting. Boosting serotonin levels within the body can have a whole myriad of positive effects including healing wounds more quickly, improve your memory and can even help to maintain bone health. However, the effect it is perhaps most well-known for, and the reason that people generally want to up their levels of serotonin, is that it helps regulate your mood naturally. With normal serotonin levels in your system you should feel happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious, and even more emotionally stable. I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty appealing to me!
So, How Can You Increase Your Serotonin Levels?
Yep, along with all the other positive effects exercise has on your body, it can also boost your serotonin levels and have a huge impact on your mood. Did you ever hear of the expression ‘runner’s high’? It’s no myth! You don’t need to just run to feel the effects, though. Anything that gets your body moving and gets your blood pumping works! Bonus points if you do something that makes you smile and and have fun at the same time, as you will see below. Serotonin is one of several endorphins that are released when you start getting your heart rate up, along with norepinephrine and dopamine. Combined, these all make you feel energized and upbeat after a great workout.
2. Get More Sunlight
Although you should be careful about the effects that catching too many rays can have on your skin, if you don’t get enough sunshine then your serotonin levels can take a dip, meaning your mood does too. Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin levels, keeping you alert, calm, and more focused. Conversely, at night, a lack of light means the brain produces melatonin, which is what makes you feel sleepy.
If you have depression caused by a lack of sunlight, it is known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder. You will normally suffer from it during the short days of winter, especially if you are going into and leaving work in the dark. To boost your levels, ensure you spend as much time outdoors as possible, and allow your bare skin to be exposed to sunlight for short periods of time, whilst always being conscious of sun safety. Try and get outside on your lunch break when you can, rather than spending all your time cooped up under artificial light. Some doctors will recommend light boxes, which are designed to simulate sunlight and stimulate serotonin production.
3. Treat Yourself To A Massage
You will be delighted to know that you now have an excuse to get that massage you’ve being dreaming about. If you’ve had one, you’ll know how calm your brain becomes and how relaxed your body feels after a massage. It is not just that your muscles have been manipulated. Your whole system has had a boost of serotonin. Treat yourself to regular massages to feel the benefits, or rope your partner into a serotonin boosting massage exchange.
4. Vitamin B6
Our diets have far more of an impact on our overall well-being than most of us are aware. Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in your brain’s ability to produce serotonin, and you get this vitamin through your diet. You can take a supplement to make sure that you are getting enough, but there is also plenty of B6 in spinach, garlic, cauliflower, celery, fish and poultry, so try and make sure that you are getting plenty of these into your diet.
5. Smile and Laugh More Often
Giving yourself more reasons to have a giggle stimulates serotonin production and gives you an instant boost. Whether it’s watching a comedy or getting together with people that will have you rolling on the floor laughing are sure fire ways of getting more serotonin coursing around your system. You don’t actually have to laugh, though. A true smile (one that reaches all the way up to your eyes) will mean your brain releases more serotonin, too. Whilst it might seem hard to really smile when you are feeling low, try looking at pictures that make you smile, or go and speak to someone that never fails to make you happy. Smile at everyone you come across, and the smiles you get back will make you feel good, too.
Boost Your Mood the Natural Way
If you are feeling low, trying the 5 serotonin-boosting tips above might just be the key to getting your mood back on track to where it should be. Get active, give yourself reasons to smile from ear to ear and keep the ones you love close, and you will be sure to notice a difference. Have we missed anything? How do you boost your mood? Please share in the comments below.