Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is often considered to be one of the ” feel good” chemicals in our brain– it’s associated with (you guessed it!) feeling good, better appetite, memory, and learning. Low serotonin can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping and poor memory or learning capacity. Interestingly, low serotonin is also associated with craving sugar and starches.
If you are interested in increasing your serotonin level naturally, here are 6 ways to go about it:
- Soak up more sun! We are so lucky in Chicago to live close to a large body of water! Get out — in the morning if you can–and soak up all the vitamin D you can. Vitamin D helps with synthesis of serotonin. Suffering from lack of light from living in Chicago in the winter months? Consider indoor light therapy or vitamin D supplementation.<p>
- Work out: join a gym, buy new running shoes, find a soccer team– or get climbing. Working out is an excellent way to clear your mind, raise your endorphins, and put everything in perspective. In particular, cardiovascular exercise has been show to help with production and release of serotonin.<p>
- Get Social: Some psychologists believe that one measure of happiness is the quality and scope of your social circle– be it friends or family. Get out there, spend time with people who matter to you, and form new friendships and renew old ones. Furthermore, hanging out with friends has been shown to cause production of oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”) which is also involved in release of serotonin. How great does that sound!? <p>
- Improve your gut health: There are a variety of ways to make your tummy happy– in turn it will let you sleep! Cut out simple carbs, increase your intake of healthy bacteria (probiotics), and if you are really ambitious, get rid of that stuff called sugar. Given the importance of our gut, its not shocking that 80%-90% of our serotonin is found in it.
- Meditate: yoga and meditation help many people recenter and calm down. Look for a local school or group to get you started and learn to practice for a few minutes each day.
- Avoid alcohol: most of us have experienced it, alcohol messes with your sleep! If you need to relax and unwind, avoid your night cap and try to incorporate meditation, excersize, and sun to calm down instead. Studies in the 90’s showed that 45 minutes after consuming alcohol, individuals serotonin levels were much lower than prior to consuming.