Mental health is a big topic of conversation, especially as teenagers and young adults go through big, life changes such as school and jobs. Transitional periods can be very difficult on our bodies and minds. This unbalance can cause some damage on mental health.
Serotonin, besides being the “happy chemical” in our brains, does so much more for our bodies. It helps to regulate sleep and appetite, strengthens memory and promotes learning.
The good news is there are lots of ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels. Here are some easy, efficient lifestyle tips that can help keep your mental state in check.
Eat Nutritious Foods
Does anyone else have a “happy dance” when they’re snacking in the kitchen? Certain foods, vitamins and minerals can encourage good moods.
Vitamins B6 and B12 specifically affect serotonin production. Studies have shown that a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to sleep issues and even some psychiatric problems such as anxiety.
A few studies have found that high-protein foods can also elevate mood due to its endorphins. While there are varied results with these studies, it is well known that eating healthily can lead to feelings of satisfaction and overall happiness. Staying away from the processed foods and addicting sweets may help boost mood in the long run.
Soak in the Sun
Getting outside can immensely elevate your mood. Vitamin D is so important for our bodies. The lack of it can be linked to seasonal depression during the colder, darker months.
Even when it’s too chilly for a stroll outside, crack a window. Open that blind. Sunlight has been considered one of the top ways to boost happiness along with relaxed feelings. On the contrast, darkness can promote melatonin production. Getting sunlight can help you focus, stay happy, and relax.
I don’t just mean going to the gym – some days that may seem far from possible. This could be as simple as a 10 minute walk with your dog or some morning yoga with a roommate.
Exercise triggers the production and release of tryptophan, an amino acid that is then converted to serotonin in the brain. If you’re not into cardio, no worries. The level of intensity doesn’t matter a catastrophic amount. Anything is better than nothing!
Start a Journal
Before you start to feel embarrassed about keeping a “diary,” get that stigma out of your head. Keeping a journal, such as a gratitude journal or even a photo album with happy memories, can immensely help mental health!
I started journaling a few months ago to keep my pleasant memories in one little book. There are so many days that I occasionally reminisce about and wish so badly that I had documented them. It really is the little things that matter. I want to be able to flip through the stories and adventures that I will eventually forget even happened, so that’s what I started doing.
This can also evolve into a mental health journal, where you keep track of how you’re feeling every day. This will help you recognize what you did each day and which things help to make your days go well.
Get a Massage
Besides the amazing feeling of relaxation and muscle release, massage therapy has so many benefits on the body. It can increase dopamine and serotonin, decrease cortisol, and lessen stress, anxiety and mild depression.
Can’t get out and find a massage therapist? Have a friend try to massage your shoulders, or lay down on your back and try breathing techniques. Even massaging your own leg, neck or anywhere else on your body that may feel tension can be beneficial.
Walk in Nature
Nature has a beautiful way of helping us express gratitude. Just a simple walk around campus, through a hiking trail, or a stroll through a garden can elevate your mood. Sunlight definitely helps, but even cloudy-day walks can improve mental health. The combination of exercise and emotional release is the perfect recipe for a “serotonin high.”
Turn on a Bright Light
Serotonin levels are naturally lower throughout the winter and higher in the summer due to the difference in natural light. This can lead to seasonal depression and other related illnesses.
Even just turning on an extra light in your room can help keep mood elevated. Natural light is best, as evidence has shown that serotonin levels are highest in people that spend 10 to 15 minutes outside each day.
Dance, Run, Eat, Write, Sing off Key… Whatever Makes You Happy
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health! Try these natural ways to boost those happy chemicals in your brain and keep you focused on all the good things going on in life at the moment.
You deserve the good things coming to you.
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