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11 Ways To Increase the Serotonin In Your Brain (Naturally)

11 Ways To Increase the Serotonin In Your Brain (Naturally)

Low serotonin levels influence everything from your appetite to your sleep cycle, memory, sex drive, and (of course) mood. Let’s look at 11 powerful ways you can boost your mental well-being, focus and motivation by immediately increasing levels of this neurotransmitter.

1. Get More Tryptophan

Firstly, you need to know about tryptophan. It’s an amino acid that’s vital in the production of serotonin, so if you increase your dietary intake then you put yourself on the fast track to happier days.

Some of the best foods to eat include lean meats, eggs and dairy foods, but don’t fret if you’re on a vegan diet! Nuts and seeds are also packed with tryptophan, so make them a staple snack.

2. Book A Massage

You might already have a sense that a massage can influence your mood, but you probably don’t know that this isn’t just the result of working out muscular tension.

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Research on how massage changes body chemistry suggests that serotonin levels often peak after a session, most likely because of a 30% reduction in cortisol. When too much of this hormone is circulating around your system, your brain is actually blocked from making the right amount of serotonin.

3. Boost Your B Vitamins

Every vitamin in the B family helps you feel good and plays a role in keeping your body fit but there are two particularly useful ones when it comes to serotonin production—vitamins B12 and B6. There’s even evidence that B vitamin supplementation can help to treat depression in the elderly population.

Most people benefit from a dose of about 50-100mg per day but check with your doctor (and don’t be afraid to ask for a blood test in case you have an underlying vitamin deficiency).

4. Soak Up The Sunshine

Whenever you’re outside in the sunlight, you kick-start your brain’s serotonin production. This is true even if there’s some cloud cover, so there’s no excuse to stay inside all day in winter!

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Do your best to spend at least 20-30 minutes outside every morning or afternoon—this is a great opportunity to go somewhere beautiful, or just reflect while listening to your favorite songs.

5. Add More Magnesium To Your Diet

You may not give much thought to magnesium, but some reports estimate that as many as 75% of the American population could be deficient in this mineral. It’s not only capable of influencing serotonin balance, but also helps to control blood pressure and regulate nerve function.

In supplement form, it has been shown to help some patients recover from even major depressive episodes. To add more to your diet, look to foods like dark leafy greens, fish, bananas and beans.

6. Find Ways To Be More Positive

Increasing the brain’s serotonin levels isn’t just about external things like diet and environment—psychological studies show you can also influence neurotransmitter production by working to change your attitude to life. Figure out what makes you feel good about yourself and the world around you, and do more of that!

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Good examples include socializing with people you love, allocating an hour a day to an inspiring hobby, deliberately visualizing a happy event, and keeping a gratitude journal.

7. Reduce Sugar Intake

Interestingly, one of the major symptoms of low serotonin is a craving for sugary foods—this is because insulin is needed to manufacture some of the components of serotonin. Unfortunately, this increased sugar consumption backfires, as it typically leads to a mood crash (counteracting the benefits of the helpful neurotransmitters you’ve just produced). Protect yourself from illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and focus your efforts on healthier ways of increasing serotonin.

8. Meditate

Yes, we know, meditation comes up in every list that relates to well-being! However, there are good, evidence-based reasons for this—meditating really can help just about every area of your life. Serotonin levels increase in response to any form of meditation that raises 5-HIAA, an acid that the brain needs when making serotonin.

As a bonus, meditation combats the influence of stress hormones, which not only makes you feel happier but also reduces unnecessary inflammation in the body.

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9. Exercise More Often

You’ll already be getting a bit more exercise if you follow the above advice about sun exposure, but take a critical look at the rest of your week and see if you can make time for extra workouts. Anything that gets your heart pumping can elevate your serotonin levels, and the associated endorphins make you feel fantastic as well. Think outside the box to find types of exercise that you actually find fun—for example, swap the treadmill for jogging through the park, attending a dance class or learning water aerobics.

10. Get More Vitamin C

While vitamin C doesn’t seem to be as crucial to serotonin as B vitamins, there is some emerging research showing an increasingly strong connection with mood. For example, some studies indicate vitamin C has natural antidepressant properties, and one group of scientists even found that people who increased vitamin C felt happier within just a week. This may not only be to do with serotonin but also vitamin C’s role in producing other neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine—both of which make us feel good. Oranges, bell peppers and tomatoes and leafy greens are all excellent choices if you want to get more vitamin C.

11. Practice Self-Care to Reduce Stress

Finally, you’ve probably noticed that ways of regulating cortisol have come up a few times because cortisol blocks serotonin from being made in the first place. This means that essentially, anything you can do to reduce stress levels can have a positive knock-on effect on the amount of serotonin in your brain.

If you’re the type of person who puts others first, takes on too much and is constantly working, start looking at ways to prioritize self-care in your week and more serotonin will follow. Self-care means different things for different people, but you can brainstorm good ideas by making a list of ten things that make you feel truly happy!

How to increase serotonin levels

    Featured photo credit: Andrés Nieto Porras, Flickr via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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