We all know that feeling of complete joy, when it seems like you just can’t stop smiling (or laughing!) and nothing can ruin your day. If only we could make those moments last longer, or at least experience them more frequently. Well, perhaps you can--by boosting the levels of serotonin in your body. We’re not promising everything will always come up roses after adding a serotonin supplement to your routine, but you may notice that your mood and overall well-being are more positive and uplifted. Sounds good right, but how? In this article, we’re going to examine:
- What is serotonin and why it’s important to have
- How you can raise your serotonin levels
- Benefits of adding serotonin to your daily routine
What is Serotonin and How does it Affect Your Body?
Serotonin is known as the happy chemical, and who wouldn’t want more of that!
Although serotonin contributes to many bodily functions, it is sometimes referred to as the happy chemical, because higher levels of it can have a positive impact on your mood. It is chemically known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and is found in the brain, digestive system, and blood platelets. Our bodies use nerve signals to transmit messages between cells, and serotonin--as a neurotransmitter--assists in this function and runs most of the processes of the central nervous system. Serotonin always contributes to the sleep/wake cycle and runs the body’s internal clock.
It is called the happy chemical because it is believed to help regulate mood and promotes positive feelings. There may also be a link between levels of serotonin and depression--either low levels can contribute to depression, or depressive symptoms cause a drop in the body’s levels.
- Serotonin (5-HT) is a neurotransmitter chemical that is found in the GI tract, brain, and in blood platelets.
- Higher levels of serotonin are believed to contribute to mood boosts and better sleep, among others.
How Can You Boost Your Serotonin Levels?
There are ways you can increase your serotonin levels
If you’re looking for a mood booster, need help with symptoms of depression, or just want to get a better night’s sleep, consider looking for ways to raise your serotonin levels. Here are a couple ways to add a little extra of the happy chemical into your day:
- Food. Although we cannot get serotonin directly from food, you can increase the amount of foods you eat that have higher levels of tryptophan in them-- because that is the amino acid that is converted to serotonin. Research has shown that eating protein rich foods alongside carbs can help serotonin pass through the blood-brain barrier. Pair your favorite meat such as turkey or salmon with brown rice or whole wheat bread to get a little extra serotonin in.
- Supplements. One of the easiest ways to increase serotonin is to take a supplement such as a 5-HTP that includes serotonin synthesizers. The 5-HTP will easily pass through the blood-brain barrier and can contribute to additional serotonin production. Just make sure to speak with your doctor about taking a serotonin supplement, since it can have interactions with antidepressants, prescriptions medications, or over the counter medications.
- Exercise. We all know that daily exercise is a part of a healthy regime that keeps both our minds and our bodies in top notch condition. Did you also know that getting your heart rate elevated could also release serotonin? That’s right, exercise increases the tryptophan in your blood (which leads to serotonin production) and it also decreases other amino acids, allowing for the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Light exposure. Some studies have found that serotonin levels are lower after the cold winter months, and higher after the warm summer ones. These levels might also be linked to seasonal depressive disorder (SAD) being more prevalent during the darker winter, where there is less light. Increase your daily light exposure by ensuring you spend at least 10-15 minutes outside soaking up the sunshine. Why not combine extra light exposure with some aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, or hiking and really raise your serotonin levels? Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
- Massage. A great way to decrease stress is to treat yourself to a massage. Massage therapy has been shown to not only lower cortisol (the stress hormone), but to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine. Everyone deserves a little self care, and if you can’t make it to a massage therapist, consider asking your partner or family member for a quick session to increase your serotonin levels.
- Depending on your lifestyle, there are many ways to get an extra boost of serotonin into your routine.
- Try supplements, food, exercise or even a massage and see the benefits of raising your levels.
Benefits of Higher Levels of Serotonin
Enjoy the happy chemical when you raise your serotonin levels
So now you know what serotonin is, how you can raise your serotonin levels--now it’s time to see what some of the benefits are! As we mentioned earlier, serotonin is known as the happy chemical because of its effect on mood and feelings of happiness. Everyone wants to feel more positive, and by increasing serotonin through diet, supplements, exercise, or by getting outside, you’ll be on your way to boosting your mood. When you raise your serotonin levels, you might be able to better manage (or eliminate) some of your depressive symptoms like anxiety. It’s important to speak with your therapist before starting on any additional serotonin because your mood and wellbeing is complicated, and everyone will respond differently.
In addition to helping with mood, serotonin can help you get more restful sleep--which is important to any healthy lifestyle. Higher levels of serotonin can help you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, giving both your body and your mind much needed rest.
Consider adding some additional serotonin to your lifestyle and see how you feel. Who knows, you could be on your way to a little extra happy time.