How’s Your Winter Serotonin Support Going?
Winter blues and low mood can make life unbearable. Luckily, if you can summon a bit of discipline, and have a bit of patience, there are many ways to not only improve your mood but come out of winter leaner, smarter, more energetic and with better habits.
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that’s involved in many processes in the body from your mood to digestion. This winter, many of us will find ourselves very low on serotonin.
Symptoms may include:
- Feelings of depression
- Poor sleep quality
- Impulse control
- Digestive issues
- Decreased appetite
- Sugar cravings
- Low energy
So, if your mood is really low, the tips and studies below may help you get your mood back online as well as improve your energy levels, appearance, IQ, and longevity...
Before you read on, all of these suggestions may be helpful. However, the most important things are probably your lifestyle macros. The biggest factors for most people for mood are probably exercising, socializing, and keeping your diet balanced. For a lot of us, it is important to keep sugar and alcohol consumption minimal.
- Aerobic exercise is well known to increase serotonin. Aerobic exercise can be defined literally by “with oxygen” Any exercise to stimulate heart rate and respiratory system. ie. jogging, swimming, running, biking, etc.
- Pilates is shown to greatly improve self-confidence as opposed to other forms of exercise. This should definitely help your sense of self-efficacy and pleasure from your daily activities.
That’s right, light. As a species, we are used to being outside a lot, particularly in the sun. The amount of light on a sunny day outside is 5 - 20 times brighter than your brightest office.
- Get out in the sun whenever possible. Full-spectrum light can be helpful but the serotonin boosting effect can is still very low versus a “Happy light”
- I personally use a Kasina Unit which is great for absorbing the rays during the dark months of winter, as well as avoiding the harmful UV rays of the sun during the summer
- The Kasina is helpful for a variety of issues such as sleep and recovery but they are also excellent for mood and bringing a sort of color to your eyes when Alaska goes grey and dark.
Light therapies should be approached with some caution if you have a history of manic depressive issues. The lights on the Kasina could be problematic for people with seizure disorders.
Ensuring that you indulge in nutritious foods full of essential Amino Acids plays a crucial role in maintaining a happy mind and body.
Tryptophan rich foods can help to elevate your serotonin levels. To better absorb tryptophan, it may help to include about 25 grams of wholesome carbohydrates.
Tryptophan rich foods:
- Eggs - eggs also have choline and other brain-healthy nutrients
- Tofu - if you tolerate soy well, it also has calcium
- Nuts - a handful a day are great for overall health
Supplementation may sound like a process that is only for hardcore bodybuilders and athletes. The number of daily nutrients our bodies need to function at its best is harder to meet than you may think. Vitamins and supplements contain essential nutrients that are difficult to consume in a normal diet.
Before taking any supplements, ensure you speak with your health professional.
Supplements that are good for mood and general health:
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B
Specific serotonin boosting supplements: (Check with your Doctor before taking!)
- SAMe (great for joints and liver as well)
- Saint John's Wort
- Meditation - load a free meditation timer or get a class
- Practice gratitude - keep a gratitude journal
- Look into the past for happy events
- Make something fun to look forward to this week month & year.
- Pilates, yoga, dance.
Body Therapies: Regular massage has been shown to increase serotonin levels
- Massage: No cash? Trade with a friend or spouse…
- Citrus smells such as orange and bergamot are shown to improve mood. Men should avoid lavender as it can lower testosterone levels.
- Clear your house of scented cleaning products. If a product says it contain “Fragrance” it is probably pretty toxic. Problems include, hormone imbalances (bad skin, hair, mood, brain), cancer, low sperm counts, allergies, and nervous system disorders.
- Dryer Sheets
- Scented laundry products
- Mrs. Meyers & many “natural” products can be very dirty
- Many cosmetics.
Load the ThinkDirty app on your phone and stay informed on your favorite products.
Depression is complicated. Feelings of despair can make you feel like things will never improve. If you have major depressive issues or feelings of suicide, you may find it harder to even desire contentment. It’s important to reach out for support from the people you trust when you begin to notice consistent feelings of apathy and lethargy. Healing is difficult when these feelings consume you. The point when you least desire healing is when you most likely need it the most.
What is serotonin? + Tips on foods that can help.
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. It’s said to help produce healthy sleeping patterns as well as boost your mood. Studies show that serotonin levels can have an effect on mood and behavior, and the chemical is commonly linked to feeling good and living longer.
But for a more natural approach to possibly increasing your serotonin levels, you can try eating foods that contain tryptophan. It is known that tryptophan depletion is seen in those with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Cheese is another great source of tryptophan. A yummy favorite you could make is mac and cheese that combines cheddar cheese with eggs and milk, which are also good sources of tryptophan.
Pineapples are a major source of bromelain, a protein that can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy as well as help suppress coughs, according to some research. Combine pineapple and coconut with chicken for this delicious piña colada chicken recipe.
We’re on a mission to stop the suicide stats.
Every 40 seconds, we lose somebody to suicide. Healthline is on a mission to support people living with mental health issues and suicidality. Here’s how you can get involved.
6. Nuts and seeds
There’s a reason why the Thanksgiving meal is usually followed by a siesta on the couch — turkey is essentially stuffed tryptophan.
Serotonin and your diet: Does it work?
So the common belief is that by eating foods high in tryptophan, you can boost your serotonin levels. But is this true?
Serotonin isn’t found in foods, but tryptophan is. Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 all tend to contain large amounts of this amino acid. While high-tryptophan foods won’t boost serotonin on their own, there’s one possible cheat to this system: carbs.
Cause the body to release more insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption and leaves tryptophan in the blood. If you mix high-tryptophan foods with carbs, you might get a serotonin boost.
The tryptophan you find in food has to compete with other amino acids to be absorbed into the brain, so it’s unlikely to have much of an effect on your serotonin levels. This differs from tryptophan supplements, which contain purified tryptophan and do have an effect on serotonin levels.
While they can’t compete with supplements — which you should not be taking without approval from your doctor — the foods listed above contain high amounts of tryptophan.
Other ways to boost serotonin
Food and supplements aren’t the only ways to boost serotonin levels.
- Exercise. ResearchTrusted Source
- Sunshine. Light therapy is a common remedy for seasonal depression. ResearchTrusted Source
- Positivity. Research shows that facing daily life and your interactions with others with a positive outlook can significantly boost your serotonin levels. As the Spice Girls once sang: “All you need is positivity!”
When Life Gives You lemons; you can make much more than just lemonade.
A lot of people come to Studio One because of pain. They often stay because they get so much more than just pain relief. One of the great things about exercise and taking care of your mind and body is that the benefits are life multipliers. Pilates doesn’t just flatten your abs and get you out of pain. It also improves your posture, keeps you from slipping on the ice, and is a known mood and confidence builder.
As many of you know, I have a history that includes chronic pain, many injuries, and some trauma. Many of you do as well. When it comes to health, I’ve learned to look for the “life multipliers” in everything I do to stay healthy, happy, and pain-free. When I can look at all of the benefits of making a change, I often feel more motivated and stick to the changes longer. A couple of personal examples: I’ve eaten gluten-free for almost 40 years. It can be inconvenient, and I often go hungry. On the bright side, I save thousands of calories a year that just aren’t available to me. My joint & other issues keep me exercising daily. A side effect of my problems - I stay in shape & I stay leaner.
Pauls Corollary: Whenever life gives you lemons, get a 3x return on the effort it takes to fit the situation. So maybe you start with some Lemons. Use that juice to make lemonade. Use some of the rinds for a soothing tea. Add the zest to a vinaigrette or lemon ginger dressing, and make use of the smell to boost your mood. Then use the leftover to freshen up your garbage disposal. Apply this idea to your everyday life and find the value in things you may have never noticed before.
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