by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CSN, CPT
You’re probably familiar with serotonin, the “happy chemical” in your brain. You may even know that exercising and getting a massage can help boost serotonin levels. But did you know that it’s possible to enhance these levels naturally? Here are some tips for boosting serotonin levels and integrating these practices into your daily life.
How to Help Boost Serotonin Levels in Your Body Naturally
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate our moods. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
There are many things you can do to boost your serotonin levels naturally. These include:
1. Exercise regularly
Exercise is one of the best ways to boost serotonin levels. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good chemicals) and other neurotransmitters that can help relieve anxiety, stress, and depression.
Even if you’re not in a great mood, exercise can help you feel better about yourself. Exercising regularly helps improve your mood and self-confidence, which may lead to feeling happier overall.
2. Enhance your diet
One of the best ways to boost serotonin levels in your body is by eating foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep.
Foods rich in tryptophan include protein-rich foods such as eggs, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as carbohydrate-rich foods such as bananas, dried dates, figs, and raisins. A healthy balanced diet will ensure you get all the nutrients needed for good health and help you maintain a healthy weight.
3. Sunlight is the key
A very important step to boosting your serotonin levels is to get more light into your life. This can come from the sun or artificial sources like lamps or red lights, but it’s essential to ensure you’re getting enough sunlight (which also helps provide the body with natural vitamin D).
Serotonin production is regulated by both the amount of light we’re exposed to and our circadian rhythm. The more light we have available, the better our serotonin production will be.
4. Get a massage
Massage is one of the easiest ways to boost your serotonin levels. And it doesn’t have to be a full-body massage. You can simply massage one area, like your neck or shoulders, for five or 10 minutes at a time.
According to a study, massage therapy can enhance serotonin levels by roughly around 28%.
The reason massage boosts serotonin is that it increases blood flow to the brain. The more blood flow there is, the more oxygen and nutrients get delivered to cells, which helps them function better.
Massage also reduces stress hormones that make you feel bad and increase cortisol levels in your body (which is what happens when you feel stressed). Massaging also increases dopamine production, which helps you feel happier and calmer.
5. Use supplements
It’s possible to boost your serotonin levels with supplements. But the problem is that most supplements for boosting serotonin aren’t very effective.
Supplements that are most likely to be effective include:
- L-Tryptophan: This amino acid is converted into 5-HTP in the body and then into serotonin, but it doesn’t work well unless you’re deficient in B vitamins. Taking it without enough B vitamins can cause side effects like nausea and diarrhea.
- 5-HTP: This supplement is made from tryptophan, but it’s absorbed better than L-Tryptophan and doesn’t require B vitamins before it works effectively. It’s also less likely to cause side effects than L-tryptophan or prescription drugs such as Prozac (fluoxetine) or Zoloft (sertraline).
6. Support gut bacteria
One of the most important things that can help boost serotonin levels is supporting your gut bacteria. A healthy gut flora is essential for overall health and well-being because these little microorganisms play an important role in regulating many body processes, including digestion, immunity, and mental health.
The best way to support your gut bacteria is by eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir, which contain billions of live cultures with beneficial bacteria that promote good digestion and improve overall health.
7. Try to manage stress
Stress can lead to low levels of serotonin because it causes the body to release cortisol, which blocks the production of the neurotransmitter. To manage stress, try meditating for 10 minutes a day or exercising for at least 30 minutes every other day. You can also try journaling or calling a friend when you feel stressed or anxious.
8. Spend time with your loved ones
Whether it’s your pet, friend, or family member, being around people you care about has been shown to increase happiness levels by triggering the release of oxytocin (the love hormone). Oxytocin makes us feel connected to others and lowers stress levels while increasing feelings of comfort and safety.