The hormone serotonin, found in the digestive tract, central nervous system, blood platelets, and deep in the center of the brain in the pineal gland, helps regulate appetite, sleep, learning, and memory. Serotonin is, however, perhaps most well-known for its contributions to our feelings of well-being, and is also known as the “happy hormone.”
Levels of serotonin found in our brains change with the seasons. As the days get shorter, enzymes in the brain that eat serotonin become more active, thus reducing the amount of serotonin we have.
This is a natural process in the serotonergic system, but researchers from the University of Toronto and Medical University of Vienna believe this to be the cause in some of feelings of low mood during the winter months. So with the clocks having gone back and the days now getting shorter, it’s a good time to use these simple natural ways to boost your serotonin levels.
Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 aids in the production of various neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, the body does not store it and relies on replenishment from outside sources.
Luckily, vitamin B6 is naturally present in a variety of foods, so try to include some of these B6-rich foods in your diet: spinach, garlic, cauliflower, celery, turnip, mustard greens, fish (halibut, cod, snapper, salmon, and tuna), chicken, turkey, and lean beef tenderloin.
Outdoor Exercise. Exercise is a great way to naturally stimulate good mood hormones, boosting serotonin along with others. Just 15–20 minutes of exercise a day is enough to release serotonin and other feel-good hormones. Sunlight, even on a cloudy day, increases the amount of serotonin your body makes, so take your workout outside whenever possible.
Limit Stimulants. While caffeine, sugar, and alcohol temporarily lift the mood, down the road they actually deplete the body of valuable hormones and lead to adrenal burnout. You don’t need to give these stimulants up completely all at once, but setting a limit of 1 to 2 cups of caffeinated beverages a day and limiting your sugar and alcohol to a minimum will help you maintain a balanced mood.
Acupuncture. Based on analysis of serotonin levels in blood and spinal fluid, scientists have now discovered that acupuncture can help to regulate the production and release of serotonin. So if adaptions in diet and exercise don’t lift your mood enough, look for a licensed acupuncturist in your area.
You can verify the license of an acupuncturist at this link: www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm by selecting “Acupuncture” and typing the person’s last name.
Don’t see anyone who offers acupuncture or something called “dry needling” but does not hold an acupuncture license or certification.