Some people with low serotonin levels experience depression and anxiety. If you experience these conditions, you can take medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (commonly known as SSRIs), to increase your serotonin levels. And for many people, this is a necessary and common part of the treatment. But, whether you take SSRIs or not, some daily habits can also give you a boost of serotonin. Below, a psychologist shares some examples:
“Extensive research has shown that there is a link between exercise and mood,” says Billie Katz, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai. More specifically, it says that aerobic exercise (which provides cardiovascular preparation, also known as raising your heart rate) can have antidepressant effects.
As a result, Dr. Katz often “prescribes” exercise. And, a 2001 study published in Clinical Psychology Review examined the emotional effects of exercise and found that it helps patients develop resilience and serves as a consistent treatment option. Do you need examples to try? Aerobic exercises include cycling, walking, running, swimming, kickboxing, dancing and rollerblading.
Adequate sleep is a habit that is difficult to maintain – but is essential for serotonin production. “We know that serotonin is involved in regulating good mood, and several research studies have found that poor sleep quality (both in terms of sleep duration and sleep quality) can affect the brain’s serotonin receptors, making them less sensitive to positive effects. of serotonin, “says Dr. Katz. Notes a 2005 study published in Sleep this is exactly what it shows.
“For adults, the current recommendation is to seek seven to eight hours of sleep a night,” says Dr. Katz.
3. Activities that make you feel good
Have you ever heard the saying that action leads to motivation, not the other way around? That comes into play here. When you’re depressed and experiencing low serotonin levels, you may not be ready to do much – but accumulating positive experiences (or behavioral activation) can help, according to Dr. Katz.
Some examples of these activities are going out to dinner, spending time with friends, working on a goal, learning a new skill, walking, playing with your pet, monitoring your hygiene, and completing a task.
“Behavior activation has an important evidence base as an effective treatment for patients with depressive mood and inhibition characteristics,” explains Dr. Katz. “By engaging in enjoyable activities and becoming more active, people experience an improvement in mood.”
A 2007 study published in Clinical Psychology Review examine the effectiveness of participating in activities; found that activity planning is an effective part of treatment, especially for the behavioral aspect of depression (such as wanting to do nothing and struggling to get things done). It also enhances patients’ positive life experiences.
4. Vitamin D
Finally, there may be a link between vitamin D and serotonin levels. Studies have shown that people who are deficient in vitamin D may have impaired serotonin levels, says Dr. Katz. Notes a 2015 study in Federation of American Society of Experimental Biology which examined the intersection of vitamin D, serotonin, cognitive function and social behavior. Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be associated with dysfunctional serotonin activation and may contribute to depression.
To get more vitamin D, you can spend time in the sun, looking for milk fortified with it or eating things like mushrooms, fish and (cooked) egg yolks.
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