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Last Updated on January 3, 2018

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 October 16, 2018

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

    It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

    If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

    One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

    Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

    In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

    Why you can’t sleep through the night

    The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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    Stress

    If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

    Exposure to blue light before sleep time

    We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

    While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

    Eating close to bedtime

    Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

    Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

    Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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    Medical conditions

    In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

    The vicious sleep cycle

    The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

    Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

    You get a bad night’s sleep
    –> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
    –> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
    –> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

      You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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      How to sleep better (throughout the night)

      To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

      1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

      What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

      Here are a few suggestions:

      • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
      • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
      • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
      • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
      • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

      2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

      What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

      • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
      • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
      • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
      • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

      3. Adjust your sleep temperature

      Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

      Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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      Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

      Sleep better form now on

      Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

      I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

      As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

      Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

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