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8 ways to boost your serotonin levels and start feeling happier

Good news! Eating chocolate is one of them. By Amy Capetta
serotonin

Improve your mood by going straight to the source. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter — a chemical messenger in your brain — that most scientists attribute to feelings of happiness. Go ahead and reach for the chocolate. Upping your body’s levels can be as simple as adopting a few new habits — and snacks!

1. Treat yourself

When you’re having one of those days, you likely turn to chocolate. This dark indulgence not only tastes good, but it can actually boost your mood by increasing your levels of serotonin. Aim for about 28g per day, advises Jaclyn London, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute – USA.

2. Become more mindful

Take a deep breath. Mindful meditation — meditating while acknowledging your thoughts and accepting them without judgment — may improve physical and emotional health by reducing anxiety, chronic pain and high blood pressure. It can also increase the concentrations of grey matter in the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, according to a small study in Psychiatry Research. These changes may occur due to a positive impact on serotonin production, scientists say.

3. Get Moving

Whether your favorite activity is jogging around a track or spinning away during a spinning class, amping up serotonin comes down to raising your heart rate. ‘Exercise boosts a number of important mood chemicals, including serotonin,’ states Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of Effortless Healing. He recommends high intensity interval exercise along with walking 7000 to 10000 steps per day, but if you’re in the mood to slow it down, yoga can also offer a natural high. ‘Studies has also found that yoga can produce effects similar to that of antidepressants, again by influencing neurotransmitters,’ Dr. Mercola adds.

Read: Six secret yoga benefits

4. Step into the sun

There’s a reason why a sunny day can lift our spirits. The surge of feel-good hormones released during exposure to ultraviolet radiation can actually trigger an addictive-like behaviour, according to a 2014 study done on mice by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School – USA. The researchers believe these naturally occurring chemicals activate the same pathway as painkillers like morphine. 

5. Remember the number three

The next time you need a jolt of joy, make sure your dinner includes some omega-3-fatty acids. ‘Omega-3 deficiency has been linked to alterations in serotonin and dopamine levels,’ explains Dr. Mercola. ‘Studies show there’s a strong association between low omega-3 levels and depression.’ You can find these healthy fats in food like fish, walnuts, grass-fed beef and dairy.

6. Eat more yoghurt

Feeling happy doesn’t necessarily start in your mind. Dr. Mercola says it begins in your gut. ‘The greatest concentration of serotonin is found in your intestines, not your brain.’ he states. Digestive problems in your micro biome – the bacteria in your GI tract – can directly impact mood. To improve your gut health, he recommends eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, yoghurt and certain cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, parmesan and gouda. 

Read: Best foods for a healthy gut

7. Consider a supplement

If you’re not a fan of fermented foods, Dr. Mercola says a high-quality probiotic supplement can also help your micro biome and optimise the production of pleasure-related chemicals. ‘Some researchers have even proposed probiotics are the new Prozac, considering their beneficial effect on psychiatric health’, he states. 

8. Hug it out

When you’re craving comfort food, indulge in some one-on-one time with your partner instead. ‘Falling in love, being in love and making love all boost our serotonin,’ states Dr. Jenn Mann, licensed psychotherapist. ‘They also trigger the release of oxytocin, these wonderful brain chemicals that elevate our mood.’ You can experience this euphoria even without going all the way. ‘Kissing, hugging, cuddling, spooning together, making out and holding hands will achieve the same results,’ she adds.

From: Good Housekeeping

Photo: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

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