Natural Ways to Boost Serotonin Levels & Avoid Winter Blues

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Serotonin is known as a feel-good hormone, which largely affects our overall well-being, self-esteem and even the feeling of hunger. The level of this chemical in our bodies is known to be at its lowest in the winter, since the release of serotonin decreases in low light. For this reason, many experience the feeling of irritability, panic and mild depression in the winter months, combined with poor sleep quality and frequent hunger pangs.

The majority of people having these symptoms feel a lot better around April or May, when days get longer and higher light levels boost the production of the chemical. But what can you do until then, without having to resort to drugs? There are several great natural ways to increase your serotonin levels.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Proteins such as turkey, eggs, nuts and beans all stimulate serotonin release by the brain. Fatty fish varieties like salmon, herring and sardines, or other essential fatty acid sources like avocado, vegetable oils and flaxseed are all good for serotonin production as well.

Avoid simple carbs like white bread and white rice, which will quickly increase your blood sugar levels, but cause a significant drop in energy later. Stick with “good” carbs, such as nuts, legumes and brown rice. And don’t think that avoiding carbs altogether will solve the issue.

Our bodies need a combination of nutrients to function at their best. While proteins are great for serotonin production, eating proteins alone can actually hamper the release of the chemical, as opposed to eating a protein-rich meal with a small side of complex carbs. Leafy greens are good too, as well as various fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, asparagus and sour cherries.

Exercise

Exercising helps release several feel-good hormones, including dopamine and serotonin. Even just 20 minutes of physical activity a day can greatly boost your mood. It will also give you a more steady energy flow than what you would get from stimulants like coffee.

Avoid Sugar, Alcohol and Caffeine

While stimulants might give you an immediate feel-good sensation, they will quickly wear out and actually decrease your serotonin levels over time. Try to avoid sugar and alcohol in the winter, and keep your caffeine consumption to no more than one or two cups a day after meals.

Get Enough Sleep

Our bodies convert part of the serotonin into a sleep chemical melatonin. Because we don’t get enough serotonin in the winder, our levels of melatonin suffer as well, leading to poor sleep quality. It’s not only important to try to get a good amount of rest in the winter months, but to also get quality sleep. One way to do this is to eat serotonin-rich foods before bed. Some great evening snacks you can try for this are sour cherries, bananas, kiwis and pineapples.

Use Bright Indoor Light

If you live in the area where sunshine is particularly scarce in the winter, consider investing into some bright indoor lights to improve serotonin production. Go with 300-watt light bulbs that imitate natural daylight for the best results.

Spend Time with People You Love

Serotonin is not the only hormone that’s responsible for keeping our mood up. Other chemicals in our bodies have a similar function. Oxytocin, for example, known as the cuddle hormone, is produced when we feel comfort and love. So next time you feeling like the winter blues are creeping up on you, get a quick mood lift by spending time with your significant other, family and friends.

Sources for this article include:

Antonia
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. (http://www.rawfoodhealthwatch.com/)