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7 ways to improve your mood by boosting your serotonin levels

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that’s involved in many processes throughout your body, from regulating your mood to promoting smooth digestion.

It’s also known for:

  • Promoting good sleep by helping regulate circadian rhythms

  • Helping regulate appetite

  • Promoting learning and memory

  • Helping promote positive feelings and prosocial behaviour

Here are 7 ways to boost serotonin levels

1. Prepare your mind and body for eating- breathe, relax, disconnect from devices and work. This brings the digestive system online and improves the breakdown and absorption of nutrients.

2. Eat foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan -such as turkey, nuts, salmon, plums, and pineapple. Pair these foods with helpful carbohydrates such as brown rice, oatmeal or whole wheat bread to increase uptake in the brain

3. Physical activity triggers the release of tryptophan into your blood. Aerobic exercise seems to have the most effect, so anything that gets your heart rate up, for example a brisk walk or dancing

4. Bright light in the morning-spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day, take your physical activity outside to help increase the serotonin boost brought on by exercise

5. Improve your gut microbiome- did you know that at least 90% of your serotonin is created in the gut? That’s the “happiness chemical,” and this is why the health of your gut can dramatically influence your mood. Research suggests getting more probiotics in your diet may increase tryptophan in your blood, helping more of it to reach your brain. You can take probiotic supplements, or eat probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt (go for natural or Greek, avoid the ones with added sugar), and fermented foods, such as kimchi or sauerkraut. Prebiotics are key too as they feed the good bacteria. Try eating more broccoli, cauliflower, bananas, beans and blueberries.

6. Massage therapy helps increase serotonin and dopamine, another mood-related neurotransmitter. It also helps to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Seeing a professional is great but women who received 20 minutes of massage therapy from a partner twice a week said they felt less anxious and depressed and had higher serotonin levels after 16 weeks. Try swapping 20 minutes of massage with a partner, family member, or friend or learn how to self- massage.

7. Intentionally boost your mood with positive emotions- thinking about something that makes you feel good can help increase serotonin in your brain, which can help promote an improved mood in general. Try one of the following:

  • visualising a happy moment from your memory

  • thinking about a positive experience you had with a loved one

  • looking at photos of things that make you happy, such as your pet, a favourite place, or close friends

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