High serotonin levels are something that we all strive to achieve; we’ve been told for years that serotonin equals happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?
It’s common to struggle with mood during the winter months when it’s dark, cold, and our bodies crave minimal activity and maximum hibernation. This means you would think that, as temperatures rise; as the sun comes out to play and summer enters the scene, moods would increase and serotonin would be as free-flowing as sunscreen. And for many people, this is the case. Typically, people experience higher levels of happiness in the summer due to the increase in sunshine.
However, one size does not fit all when it comes to serotonin and sunshine. Other people find they struggle with things such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the summer months, even when the sun is shining bright.
Though a lack of sunlight can lead to a lack of serotonin, other things may be affecting your serotonin levels. So, if you find your mental health struggling during the summer months, and your serotonin levels aren’t firing on all cylinders, here are some activities to help boost your levels back up so that you can have a summer of fun.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that delivers messages between the nerve cells in your brain and the rest of your body.
This neurotransmitter is directly correlated to happiness, but that’s not it.
Serotonin is also responsible for:
- Cardiovascular function
- Bladder control
- The body’s stress response
- Body temperature
How to increase serotonin this summer
Because low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, mental illness, and mood disorders, people commonly turn to SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) to boost their levels.
However, there are other ways to do this without the potential need for prescription medications and less side effects.
1. Go for a walk, hike, jog, or bike ride
Working out is one of the best natural ways to increase your serotonin levels and summer is the best time to get outdoors and get active.
As you exercise, your body releases tryptophan, which is what your brain uses to make serotonin. This means a guaranteed increase by simply by getting active. This is even better if you do it with a friend who can help support you through a tough workout and make it more fun.
Though summer weather is ideal for exercising outdoors, you can still find a way to get your workout in even when the days get shorter and the temperatures drop. Find a gym buddy, a workout class, or an exercise routine that you love and you’ll be able to work out in any season.
2. Reach for supplements
Some supplements have shown great results in producing serotonin, and one of those supplements is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter that occurs naturally in the brain, and studies prove that correct levels of this in the body can create a calming effect.
Thankfully, supplements are not only available in the summer, but are best served year-round.
3. Try new recipes
Summer is a great time to try out some new recipes in the kitchen that will have you feeling refreshed, revived, and fueled to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
And, as luck may have it, specific foods are known to boost serotonin. Though serotonin itself does not exist in food, it is synthesized from tryptophan, which can be found in high protein foods such as meat and poultry.
However, firing up your grill for a summer barbeque filled with steak is just the first step in getting the tryptophan you need to boost your serotonin. You need to pair it with carbohydrates, which grants the tryptophan access to pass the blood-brain barrier so that it can make that extra serotonin.
When the weather starts to cool and outside grilling is no longer fun, you can still take to the kitchen to cook up some cold-weather recipes to get your serotonin levels soaring.
4. Meditate in nature
The studies done on meditation produce all kinds of evidence of great benefits, including the fact that people who meditate have higher levels of serotonin.
Find a mindfulness practice that helps you step away from the stress of life and into peace and calm. Meditating outdoors in nature is ideal (when weather permits), but you’ll find that even when winter hits, the benefits of meditating indoors will be just as strong.
This neurotransmitter plays a vital role in all kinds of bodily functions, including your mood. If you struggle with low serotonin levels in the summer or any time of year, try these things to boost your mood:
This article is not intended to be medical advice, please consult your physician if you are trying to treat a serotonin deficiency this summer.