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Serotonin: The “feel good hormone”

Why we need it and how to boost it naturally


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter: a chemical that carries messages throughout the brain and nervous system. It is often referred to as the “feel good hormone” as it is responsible for regulating mood and staving off anxiety and depression. Which is why the most commonly used medications to treat these conditions are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), with the goal of increasing serotonin levels in the brain. However, these medications often come with unwanted side-effects and their long-term effectiveness has been questioned in recent years. Namely, that there are other contributing factors to the development of depression beyond low serotonin levels (but that deserves a blog post all of its own!).


Serotonin also plays a key role in learning, memory, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting, and sexual desire. So boosting your serotonin levels not only lifts your mood by regulating emotions, it also improves your physical well-being, which in turn has a positive effect on your mood. After all, when we feel physically fit and healthy, we also feel happier and more capable of dealing with life’s challenges.


Natural ways that we can boost serotonin levels:


1. Diet

  • High protein foods such as meat, poultry, and fish contain an amino acid that is converted to serotonin in the brain;

  • Carbohydrates help carry this amino acid into the brain, so it is important to eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates alongside protein.


2. Exercise

  • Exercise triggers the release of this amino acid into the blood stream, whilst also decreasing other amino acids that can get in its way;

  • Aerobic exercise such as swimming, cycling, brisk walking, jogging, and light hiking is the most effective at this.


3. Sunshine

  • Sunshine also appears to increase serotonin levels (which is why people often find they have lower moods during winter months and better moods during summer months);

  • It is suggested that we spend at least 10-15 minutes in sunshine each day (at a time when you can be safely in the sun without having to apply sunscreen).


4. Time in nature

  • As with sunshine, time spent in nature also appears to increase serotonin levels;

  • Both green spaces (parks, forests, gardens) and blue spaces (beaches, lakes, rivers) are beneficial. So make time for nature walks, picnics, or any other activity you enjoy outdoors (reading, writing, arts).


5. Massage

  • Massage therapy has also been found to increase serotonin levels as well as dopamine (which is another mood-related chemical in the brain);

  • It also helps decrease cortisol (which is a hormone that we produce when we are under stress);

  • Studies have shown a variety of health conditions can benefit from massage therapy, such as autoimmune conditions, breast cancer, and dementia.


 

Start your journey today towards living a balanced, joyful, and fulfilling life.

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