How are you feeling today? Whatever your answer, chances are that serotonin is playing a big part in your mood – not just today, but throughout life.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger that sends signals between the nerve cells. Far from just regulating mood, it also plays an essential role in other body functions, from motor skills to eating and digestion and even sleep.
Serotonin in the brain is believed to be essential for regulating mood, with low serotonin levels being responsible for symptoms of depression and low mood.
In severe cases, psychiatrists might prescribe a course of medications known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), which slow down the absorption of serotonin and allow this feel good chemical to build up in the brain, leading to improved mood.
There are, however, other ways to boost serotonin levels without the need for medications – including through diet, lifestyle and supplements. Here are a few ways to help your body produce serotonin naturally and feel good in the long term.
- Eat Yourself Happy
We don’t mean comfort eating, we mean fortifying your diet with foods that will boost your serotonin levels! Let’s get technical for a second.
Serotonin is synthesised in the body from the amino acid tryptophan, so if you’re not getting your share in your diet, a serotonin shortage is a definite risk. This essential amino acid is found in protein-rich foods like nuts, cheese and meat, and a tryptophan deficiency has been known to lead to lower serotonin levels and even mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Boost your intake of foods containing tryptophan to ensure you always have a feel-good amount of serotonin present in your body.
- Get Some Sun
Ever notice your mood is more likely to dip in the winter months? This is such a common phenomenon – especially in areas where winter is particularly dark – that there’s a name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Exposure to bright light can boost serotonin production and help balance your mood again. There are even a variety of light-therapy devices on the market these days, but the simplest (and cheapest) option is to just make sure you get a little sun each day.
- Get Your Heart Rate Up
Regular exercise – particularly aerobic exercise – can boost your serotonin levels naturally (and you’ll feel good about yourself as an added bonus). Try a short daily walk or jog as a way of getting your heart rate up and increasing your sun exposure at the same time!
Seek Medical Advice if Your Symptoms Persist
If you suffer from a persistent low mood despite diet and lifestyle changes, there might be a more serious chemical imbalance or psychological cause at play. If your quality of life is being affected, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional who can guide you to an effective long-term treatment.
References available on request: MC-21-087 V02