7 Ways to Increase Serotonin and Dopamine Levels Naturally

7 Ways to Increase Serotonin and Dopamine Levels Naturally

Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters found naturally in our brains. These neurotransmitters work as chemical messengers released by cells to carry electrical signals between neurons in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin can affect mood, sleep, memory, appetite, energy, and sexual drive.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with depression, a doctor may have recommended an SSRI. As the Mayo Clinic explains, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They work by keeping more of the neurotransmitter serotonin available in the brain. These SSRIs, known by brand names such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, can also be used for anxiety disorders.

Unfortunately, SSRIs meant to keep serotonin levels high may come with unwanted side effects, including nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, headaches, sleepiness or lack of sleep, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain, among other problems. 

Fortunately, there are some natural ways to increase dopamine and serotonin that can be used either instead of drugs or with medication to lower the amount of a prescription needed. 

Get More Exercise

Regular cardiovascular exercise performed for at least 30 minutes at a time boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Physical activity releases endorphins, making us happier while also reducing pain and inflammation and increasing the production of dopamine.

Get Outside

Spending time outdoors—even for as little as five minutes—getting natural sunlight helps your body with serotonin and dopamine synthesis. If you live in an area that makes that difficult, you can look for special lights that help boost serotonin levels. Just Google “SAD lamps,” which help with seasonal affective disorder depression, especially when they’re used first thing in the morning.

Change What You Eat

Several foods are tied to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine. Foods that boost serotonin levels include salmon and other fish with omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds, eggs, and pineapple. Many of the same foods help for dopamine, such as dairy and soy, nuts, and dark chocolate.

Try Meditating and Yoga

As shown in a report by the NCBI, both meditation and some types of yoga can induce the release of both serotonin and dopamine. These practices can also lead to feelings of peace and reduce stress. 

Invest in Essential Oils

Smelling essential oils from plants, such as bergamot, lavender, and lemon, may prompt your brain to release serotonin and dopamine. Use a diffuser to scent your work or rest space.

Seek Out the New

There’s a reason why some people are drawn to bungee jumping and skydiving. As explained by the New York Times, thrill-seeking experiences trigger interactions between thoughts in our cortex and our more primitive limbic center through the release of dopamine. But you don’t have to try extreme sports. Just try new recipes, a different drive home, or a new radio station. Look for the novel and unusual as a departure from your everyday routine.

Use Psychological and Massage Therapies

Having a trusted counselor to help you reframe your thoughts can help your mood and, consequently, your brain’s serotonin synthesis. Massage therapy can also increase serotonin. 

The Takeaway?

Serotonin and dopamine play a vital role in the body's ability to regulate mood, sleep, energy, appetite, and libido. That is why it's crucial that we practice habits that help to keep them in balance. These healthy habits include activities that can easily be integrated into your daily routine, such as exercising more, spending time outdoors, changing your diet, and even meditating.

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