This post continues the theme of the “happy”chemical serotonin and is focused on non pharmaceutical methods to increase the level of serotonin in the body.
The human body is very capable of regulating itself and achieving and maintaining a healthy chemical balance. So, if you do not feel the symptoms of depression and anxiety and your mood is good, carry on with what you are doing – you are great. However, after two years of the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and the current increases in the cost of living, the pursuit of happiness is a factor which protects against mental and physical health problems. It focusses our attention on what we should do to ensure good mood and positive emotions in our daily lives. Remember, several studies have reported that low mood is linked to a low level of serotonin and positive mood is associated with higher serotonin in the body.
There are 4 widely accepted protocols to elevate the amount of serotonin in the body. These measures are simple and available for everyone. I have adopted these protocols and continue using them in my daily life but I tailored them to myself. So, nothing is written in stone and a flexible approach is probably better – just try and implement the ones that suit you. Exactly, as the astrologists on the YouTube channels say: “ The reading is general, take what resonates to you and leave the rest.”
Firstly, there is a theory that the connection between serotonin and happiness is two-fold. On the one hand, the higher level of serotonin may cause positive moods and happiness, on the other hand, positive minds may help the level of serotonin to grow. Following from that, self-induced changes in the mood can impact on the amount of serotonin in the body. There are many possibilities for this but personally I would suggest to practice meditation.
Many people will say immediately: “Oh, I tried that, it is not for me!” Yes, maybe you are right – meditation is not for you. However, there are some common reasons why people do not like meditation:
- a popular image of meditation is a person in the lotus pose with hands on knees and closed eyes. For many people that is an awkward and difficult position that will never lead to calmness and positivity but will cause pain.
- many people do not know how to meditate or if they know they are not sure they do it right
- meditation takes time
- there are different styles of meditation
- people can become addicted to stress and adrenaline and do not want/or are not able to slow down.
- some meditation classes are very expensive
- stories about sexual abuse from meditation gurus.
If your reason for not practicing meditation is one of the aforementioned perhaps you will give it another go. I started practicing meditation after conducting my own research. I adopted a style that is suitable for me. The result – meditation is an irreplaceable part of my daily routine. I intend to write several posts on the subject of meditation and may be you can find something useful.
Secondly, sunlight! We all know that the lack of sun and bright light is the cause of seasonal depression. Interestingly, the science has discovered that people who died during summer months have higher serotonin in their bodies than people who died during winter. Exposure to sun is vital and very importantly – free. The only condition is to remove your sunglasses and enjoy the direct sunlight (if no health conditions). Of course, you may not look like a Hollywood or French actress/actor but your mood will improve. I also have heard about opening Light Cafes in Scandinavia and the good news is that they have arrived in the UK, so I will do my research and give you more information. Buying a bright light lamp is another option but buying one of them is currently not an appealing idea for me.
Thirdly, exercises! Yes, sounds so boring, exercises seem to be the panacea for improving everything. In our particular matter of serotonin we are talking about aerobic exercises (aerobic means “with oxygen”), like swimming, walking, cycling and running. The level of physical challenge must be familiar not overwhelming. Importantly, the occurrence of better mood during and after exercise is a result of the exercise itself – we are not talking about the sense of accomplishment. I have been an amateur runner, swimmer and keen walker all my life but I do not like cycling. I am a strong believer that if you find “your sport”, the exercises that suit your body and personality, you have won half the battle.
Lastly and trivially, – diet. The body makes serotonin from the essential amino acid, tryptophan. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower levels of serotonin. Tryptophan is an ingredient of most proteins. The body cannot produce it – we get it from food such as salmon, eggs, spinach, nuts and seeds, meat, cheese and yoghurt. It is controversial whether eating often and large amounts of this food will increase the level of serotonin. That is because there is a competition between the amino acids to be transported to the brain and tryptophan is not at the front of the queue. Quite the opposite – it is the last. Therefore, the widespread perception that eating turkey and bananas will improve the mood is just false. However, it does not mean that bananas or turkey are worthless. For example, bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which our bodies use to produce serotonin. So, if your diet lacks vitamin B6, dietary changes will definitely help to increase the level of serotonin.
In a nutshell – the key for increasing your level of serotonin is to give yourself time and to try different protocols. Choose one or more that suit your body type and your temperament. The smile on your face will tell you that you are on the right path.