You tend to smile when you’re happy. But it’s actually a two-way street. We smile because we’re happy, and smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier. Brain Boost Mrs. Eberst started her picture and got too caught up choosing her next book to read. Help her finish her picture! Agenda 12-5-13 Read Log: 20 min.
There aren't many situations that can't be improved by a boost in serotonin. This hormone is produced when people feel happy, and it's what many antidepressants help increase in your brain. But you don't need to be on any kind of medication to increase your serotonin levels. There are plenty of natural ways to boost your serotonin and, consequently, your happiness.
'Since our gut produces almost 90 percent of the serotonin in our bodies, we need to feed it the right things to prevent a chemical imbalance, which will affect depression and anxiety levels,' Joyce Faraj, PhD, RDN, CDN, nutritionist at Mountainside Treatment Center, tells Bustle. 'There is a direct connection between eating nutritious foods and providing your gut with the essential building blocks for neurotransmitters. If you’re not eating often enough, or enough of the right foods, you’ll likely experience drops in blood sugar, which can lead to increased symptoms of anxiety, aggressiveness, and fatigue.'
If you're suffering from anxiety or depression, it would probably benefit you to talk to a therapist, and in some cases, medication might be helpful. But whether you explore these options or not, there are also a lot of natural ways to increase your serotonin and improve your mental health. Here are eight of them, according to experts.
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Funny cat videos aren't just cute — they could actually lift your mood. 'When we start laughing, our cortisol (the stress hormone) instantly lowers, and our dopamine and serotonin increase,' psychotherapist Dana Carretta-Stein tells Bustle. 'So hanging out with people who make you laugh, watching a funny movie, or anything that makes you crack a smile, is a great way to increase your happiness hormones.'
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'When we practice being in the moment, we again help lower the stress hormone in our body (cortisol), which then in turn allows dopamine and serotonin to increase,' says Carretta-Stein. 'In order to feel happier, we first have to practice feeling calmer.' If the idea of quieting your mind sounds intimidating, try one of these meditation apps to ease yourself into meditation.
You've probably heard this one before, but it really is low-effort, high-reward. 'Researchers have found that a sweat sesh as short as 20 minutes can boost your mood for up to 12 hours,' Morgan Statt, Health & Safety Investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, tells Bustle. 'When you exercise, neurochemicals including serotonin and dopamine are released in the brain, increasing your overall well-being. Pick an exercise activity you enjoy and make an effort to fit regular workouts into your weekly routines. Doing so will benefit both your physical and mental health.'
The amino acid tryptophan is involved in serotonin production, says Statt. So, if you're short on serotonin, you might also be short on tryptophan. 'Low levels of tryptophan in the body have been linked to depression and anxiety,' says Statt. You can get it from turkey, eggs, salmon, pineapple, and tofu.
Magnesium is necessary to convert tryptophan into serotonin. 'Most Americans are extremely magnesium deficient, which means it's harder for the body to produce serotonin,' Lindsey Smith, HHC, creator of FoodMoodGirl.com, tells Bustle. 'Incorporating magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, avocado, or spinach can help increase your levels.' You can also take a daily magnesium supplement.
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There's a reason carbs are often called comfort foods: Many of them boost your mood. 'Foods such as whole grains, quinoa, rice, and sweet potatoes help the body naturally release serotonin,' says Smith.
If it seems like you feel lousy when it's raining, it's not your imagination: Sunshine helps you produce serotonin. So, if you want a quick mood boost, get into the sun (or, if the weather doesn't allow for that, a vacation may be in order). 'Twenty minutes in the sun can help elevate your mood and give your body a serotonin boost,' says Smith.
Supplements are a gentler solution than medication, since they're unlikely to have adverse side effects. You can take one specifically designed to boost serotonin, like Sereniten Plus, which has Lactium casein decapeptide and L-Theanine for anxiety reduction and Vitamin D, which is involved with serotonin synthesis. Some also find that taking the serotonin precursor 5-HTP improves their mood.
There are a ton of benefits to elevating your mood, from increased health to clearer thinking. And fortunately, there are lots of simple things you can do to get that boost quickly.