Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the body that’s known as one of the “happy hormones.” It carries signals between different parts of the brain that can affect functions including emotions and appetite. When serotonin levels are properly balanced, we feel happier and emotionally stable. On the flip side, when levels are low, it can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression and sleep issues.
To promote serotonin naturally, try these psychologist-recommended, science-backed tips:
- Get plenty of sunlight and vitamin D- Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression but going outside and getting regular exposure to the sun can help increase serotonin and ease depressive symptoms. Psychologist Dr. Sheva Assar explains, “It is believed that sunlight and subsequently vitamin D can influence our experience of positive emotions, protect from depressed mood and anxiety, as well as promote our energy and alertness.”
- Bring on the physical touch- Ever have a bad day and just feel like you need a hug? Dr. Assar explains that physical touch, like hugging and cuddling, can influence the production of serotonin, which boosts mood and decreases stress.
- Keep a gratitude journal- Taking the time to reflect on things, people and everything you’re fortunate to have in your life can make a positive impact on mental health and potentially increase serotonin production, too. Make finding the silver lining a regular part of your routine to feel happier.
- Manage caffeine intake- Don’t overdo it with the coffee because caffeine withdrawal can drain serotonin levels. Dr. Assar explains, “Chronic and excessive coffee consumption eventually contributes to serotonin depletion and can negatively impact mental health and well-being.”
- Load up on nutrient-rich foods and drinks- Psychologist Dr. Rachel Goldman says many foods naturally contain serotonin, but the body also needs other nutrients, including tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids, to produce it. Eat plenty of eggs, salmon, oats, cheese, nuts and seeds, pineapple and tomatoes and avoid foods with artificial sweeteners because they restrict dopamine and serotonin production.
Source: Mind Body Green