Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can influence many things throughout your body like your mood, memory, sleep cycle, and even your sex drive.
By increasing the serotonin in your body naturally, you can also enhance your mental state and your motivation.
Want to increase serotonin?
Here are 11 natural ways to boost your serotonin.
1. Eat Tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps in your body’s production of serotonin. Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan.
It’s believed that tryptophan is associated with mood issues like depression and anxiety.
Tryptophan supplements can increase serotonin, but a more natural approach is to eat foods that contain tryptophan.
Research has shown that when you follow a low-tryptophan diet, brain serotonin levels drop.
Foods that include tryptophan include eggs, turkey, dairy, lean meats, salmon, pineapples, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
Keep in mind: High-tryptophan foods won’t increase serotonin on their own.
But if you mix high-tryptophan foods with carbs, you’re more likely to boost serotonin.
The body releases more insulin when it absorbs carbs, which promotes amino acid absorption and leaves tryptophan in the blood.
The tryptophan you find in natural food competes with other amino acids to be absorbed in the brain so that it won’t boost serotonin a huge deal on its own.
2. Get a massage.
Getting a massage can boost your mood no matter what, but did you know that it can reduce your cortisol levels?
A study found that after massage therapy, cortisol was found to be 31% less on average in saliva or urine tests, and serotonin and dopamine increased by 28% and 31%, respectively.
Another study looked at massage therapy on babies of Depressed Mothers.
They massaged 1-3-month-old infants twice a week for 15 minutes for seven weeks and serotonin levels increased by 34% on average.
These studies not only suggest the stress-alleviating effects of massage therapy, but it can also be a significant mood booster.
Of course, it’s not clear whether these results are from massage in particular, or physical human touch.
3. Increase your intake of Vitamin B6, B12, and folate-rich foods
Vitamin B6 is important for serotonin production. Vitamin B6 must be present to convert either 5-HTP or tryptophan into serotonin.
According to a study, even mild deficiency of B6 Vitamin levels results in down-regulation of GABA and serotonin synthesis.
Vitamin B6 is found in cauliflower, bananas, avocado, grains, seeds, and nuts.
Also, taking B12 with folate increases production of serotonin.
According to research, more than a third of psychiatric admissions have been found to be suffering deficiencies in folate or vitamin B12.
Foods rich in B12 include cheese, fish, and meat while foods high in folate include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, and whole grains.
[The daily application of mindfulness can improve all aspects of your daily life, including your happiness. Check out our practical guide to mindfulness here].
4. Get some sun.
Research shows a clear correlation between being exposed to bright light and serotonin levels. Light therapy is a common remedy for seasonal depression.
However, light from the sun holds advantages over other forms of light:
Sunshine light has a UV light, is much brighter than other light and is around at the right time in the day.
Yes, too much UV can cause skin cancer, but it is important to get adequate amounts because light absorbed through the skin produces Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has many functions, including assisting in serotonin production.
Unsurprisingly for those of us who live in the north, not getting sun can affect our mood. Sunshine can initiate serotonin production in our brains.
5. Increase your intake of Magnesium.
It’s thought that up to 75% of the American population is deficient in Magnesium.
This mineral can help to control blood pressure, regulate nerve cell function and also enhance serotonin.
One study found that for people with mild depression, a magnesium supplement can make a difference within just two weeks.
It is thought that magnesium deficiency in the brain may lower serotonin levels.
This is particularly important for people who have classic magnesium deficiency symptoms: muscle cramps, muscle pain, eye twitches and muscle spasms.
Magnesium can be found in supplements and foods like dark greens, bananas, and fish.
6. Be positive.
By changing your attitude, self-talk, and perspective, you can also influence your brain. When you do things that you enjoy, you feel better.
These new patterns of positivity can help you create more serotonin. Several studies found an association between measures related to serotonin and mood.
According to research, when positive thoughts and feelings are generated, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating feelings of well-being.
One tip to increase positivity and serotonin in the brain is to remember happy events.
This simple act can increase serotonin in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain associated with controlling attention.
While sometimes it can be challenging to recall happy events when you’re feeling down, it might help to talk to an old friend about a happy time or look at old photos.
(To dive deep into techniques that teach you how to be more positive, check out my eBook on the no-nonsense guide to using eastern philosophy and Buddhism for a better life here)
7. Eat less sugar.
One of the symptoms you may feel when you’re low on serotonin is a craving for sugary foods.
Because sugar and carbs trigger the release of serotonin and give us an instant mood boost.
But this lift doesn’t last long, approximately an hour or two, before your serotonin levels crash.
A better long-term way of increasing serotonin is to eat healthy carbohydrates.
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A research study found that the ingestion of a sugar-rich diet decreased serotonin metabolism in rats.
8. Start a meditation practice.
A recent paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry concludes that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) “offers protection against relapse/recurrence on a par with that of maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy.”
Research reviews of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy suggest that it helps to reduce stress, ruminative thinking, and trait anxiety in healthy people.
Meditation is believed to raise an acid called 5-HIAA in the brain that is directly related to serotonin.
What’s more, by sitting in meditation every day you can reduce stress, and the production of cortisol and other stress hormones and also enhance the production of serotonin.
If you’re looking to begin practising meditation, here are four steps to go about it:
1) Find a quiet place and time free of distractions.
2) Get comfortable. Find a body position that makes you feel relaxed.
3) Try to get into a relaxed, passive mental attitude. Let you your mind go blank.
If thoughts and worries appear, acknowledge them, then go back to trying to be relaxed and thoughtless.
4) Concentrate on a mental device. You could use a mantra, your breathing, or a simple word that is repeated over and over. You could also stare at a fixed object. Whatever you choose, the goal is to focus on something, so you block out thoughts and distractions.
Once you become good at this, you’ll look forward to each day devoting 20 minutes to it.
(To learn how to practice meditation, check out my ultimate guide to meditation here)
Getting regular exercise is crucial for your physical and mental health.
Exercise can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals and can stimulate different parts of the brain.
A review of studies on the relationship between exercise and mood concluded that exercise has evident antidepressant effects.
In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health has published a guide on the treatment of depression.
This guide recommends treating mild depression with various strategies, including exercise, rather than antidepressants as the risk-benefit ratio is better.
In terms of serotonin, one animal study found that exercise increased tryptophan and 5-HIAA in rat ventricles.
Other studies have found that exercise increases extracellular serotonin and 5-HIAA in various brain areas, such as the hippocampus and cortex.
The question is: What type of exercise is best at increasing serotonin?
According to research, aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are the most likely to boost serotonin.
10. Get lots of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is strongly connected to mood and also has antidepressant properties.
Serotonin is created in the brain and body from tryptophan. But tryptophan needs cofactors such as vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zin for the reaction to take place.
Therefore, Vitamin C may not be directly related to serotonin, but it helps.
Vitamin C also slows the release of the stress hormone cortisol (too much cortisol can cause depression, research suggests).
Studies have found that people with low vitamin c levels are often depressed and fatigued.
And one study found people who vitamin C felt happier after just one week.
11. Reduce stress by taking care of yourself.
A little bit of stress can be good for you.
It keeps you alert, motivated and ready to take action.
But chronic stress can lead to depression in some people.
Sustained stress over long periods can lead to elevated hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone), which can reduce serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain.
This study found that increased cortisol in the body and brain can lead to depression.
It’s crucial to look after yourself when you feel like you’re experiencing too much stress.
Learning to relax your mind, and give yourself a break, is crucial for your mental and physical health.
As mentioned above, try daily routines like meditation, breathing exercises, massages, and exercise to help your mind and body relax.
It could be crucial for your serotonin levels and your mental health.
(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)
To boost your serotonin levels:
1) Eat tryptophan: Foods that include tryptophan include eggs, turkey, dairy, lean meats, salmon, pineapples, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
2) Get a massage: Studies have found serotonin levels increase after a massage.
3) Increase your intake of Vitamin B6, B12, and folate-rich foods: Foods rich in B12 include cheese, fish, and meat while foods high in folate include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, and whole grains.
4) Get some sun: Research shows a clear correlation between being exposed to bright light and serotonin levels.
5) Increase your intake of magnesium: Magnesium can be found in supplements and foods like dark greens, bananas, and fish.
6) Be positive: When positive thoughts and feelings are generated, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin.
7) Eat less sugar: A better long-term way of increasing serotonin is to eat healthy carbohydrates.
8) Meditate: By sitting in meditation every day you can reduce stress, and the production of cortisol and other stress hormones and also enhance the production of serotonin.
9) Exercise: According to research, aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are the most likely to boost serotonin.
10) Get lots of Vitamin C. Fruits with the highest sources of vitamin C include cantaloupe, citrus fruits, and juices, such as orange and grapefruit, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries.
11) Reduce stress by taking care of yourself: Learning to relax your mind, and give yourself a break, is crucial for your mental and physical health.
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