13 Tips to Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally

This article presents a series of recommendations to increase serotonin levels naturally, without drugs. Do you already do these activities?
13 Tips to Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 08 May, 2023

For people who have a depressive disorder, certain medication is often taken. However, apart from drugs, there are other ways to increase serotonin levels naturally and improve the concentration of this neurotransmitter involved in depression.

This is achieved with good nutrition, exercise, and practicing a healthy lifestyle that’s relaxed and full of peace and harmony. Above all, avoiding stress is key. Read on and learn more about how to increase serotonin levels on a daily basis.

Why do serotonin levels drop?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. This chemical is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. It’s synthesized in the brain and even in the intestines from an amino acid called tryptophan.

Although it’s most often associated with moods, serotonin influences a variety of functions. This ranges from pleasure to anxiety, through learning, to temperature regulation, libido, and appetite.

When it’s not well synthesized, we begin to feel low in mood, sensitive, uncomfortable, irritable, anxious, and even aggressive. Symptoms of fatigue or apathy, sleep disorders, inability to concentrate and low self-esteem often appear.

On the other hand, there may also be uncontrollable cravings for food, especially carbohydrates. According to theories, low serotonin levels are associated with depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and anxiety disorders.

Several external and internal factors may contribute to serotonin deficiency:

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How to increase serotonin levels naturally

When there is a deficit, this neurotransmitter can be increased by taking certain drugs. However, serotonin levels can also be increased naturally. Let’s take a look at the recommendations in this regard.

1. Eat a diet rich in tryptophan

Since tryptophan is of fundamental importance in the production of this neurotransmitter, the consumption of foods rich in this amino acid will help to increase serotonin levels naturally.

Fortunately, tryptophan is found in a wide variety of foods:

  • Dairy
  • Poultry (chicken or turkey)
  • Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and horse mackerel
  • Fresh fruits, such as bananas, plums, strawberries, pineapple, and avocados
  • Dried fruit
  • Vegetables, such as beets, carrots, broccoli, and spinach
  • Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans
  • Sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • Unsweetened dark chocolate
  • Spirulina
Banana rica en triptófano.
Although bananas are often considered the greatest source of tryptophan, there are many more products that are a source of this amino acid.

2. Omega 3 fatty acids

Fatty acids of this type not only favor the production of serotonin, but also of other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. There is a wide variety of foods rich in omega 3, such as fish and seafood, nuts, cabbage, pineapple, cucumber, lettuce, flaxseed, chia, and hemp.

3. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an essential cofactor that must be present in the synthesis of serotonin, to facilitate the conversion of amino acids. It’s therefore included in antidepressants. However, it can be consumed in rich foods such as bananas, legumes, grains, and nuts.

4. Eat fewer carbohydrates

When talking about foods to increase serotonin levels naturally, not only those that can be consumed should be mentioned. There are also foods that we should avoid.

This is the case of carbohydrates, specifically refined sugars, such as those used in cookies and industrial pastries. This also extends to white bread, rice, and non-integral pasta.

5. Avoid caffeine

Continuing with the substances that we should consume less, to increase serotonin levels caffeine should be avoided. Apart from coffee and black tea, soft drinks and energy drinks have a high caffeine content. This substance helps to raise adrenaline and cortisol levels, which generate the opposite effect of serotonin.

6. Manage your stress levels

On the one hand, serotonin helps us manage stress, but on the other hand, high levels of stress also affect serotonin production. And this can become a vicious circle that we must break.

In short, the recommendation is to avoid or stay away from anything that causes excessive stress. This includes tense work situations, certain people, and even certain negative thoughts.

7. Practice meditation

When it comes to managing stress levels, meditation is one of the most effective tools. Studies have reported positive effects in terms of physiological and psychological well-being, helping to drive away worries or intrusive thoughts.

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8. Physical activity

The benefits of exercise are well known. This includes aiding serotonin metabolism and tryptophan levels, even in schizophrenic patients, according to some research.

Although aerobic exercises are usually the most recommended, you can choose the activity that is to your liking. Walking, running, cycling or hiking have the advantage of being outdoors. Basketball and other team sports add the competitive factor. Dancing also includes listening to music, which is also beneficial.

9. Get some sunlight

Another vitamin that also plays an important role in the production of serotonin is D. Besides being present in some foods (dairy, cereals, fish, liver, and eggs), the body increases its production when exposed to sunlight.

Of course, precautions must be taken. And this means that we don’t have to burn ourselves under the sun’s rays. It’s enough to work in spaces that receive daylight or exercise outdoors.

10. Special lamps

When daylight is not plentiful, people can use special lamps to avoid the so-called seasonal affective disorder. This is known as light therapy.

If this is your case or that of the place where you live, or you notice that at certain times of the day, you feel low moods, you can consider this option. The lamp used is 10,000 lux, placed at 50 centimeters for half an hour.

11. Sleep

Among other negative consequences, the lack of regular rest causes fatigue and stress. This is why it’s important to get a good night’s rest. In addition, while we sleep, the body naturally restores its serotonin levels.

Dormir bien para aumentar los niveles de serotonina de forma natural.
Among its many benefits, rest increases our serotonin levels.

12. Laughing

It’s known that the person who’s in a good mood is always laughing, tends less to become depressed, and even physically ill. Studies on this subject corroborate that laughter reduces the stress generated in the intrahospital environment, contributing to the patient’s recovery.

Therefore, the recommendation is to engage in activities that make us laugh, such as watching funny movies or videos, attending plays of the comedy genre, meeting with funny people, and telling jokes.

13. Sex

And when it comes to pleasurable and enjoyable activities, nothing is as stimulating as making love with your partner. A session of kissing, caressing, and so on triggers our serotonin levels to the maximum.

Is medication necessary to increase serotonin levels?

While it’s true that there are mechanisms to increase serotonin levels naturally, it’s also true that in some people the production of this hormone is seriously affected by various factors, as happens in dysthymia.

In these cases, drugs such as serotonin modulators, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-noradrenaline, or noradrenaline-dopamine, depending on the pathology, can be administered. Of course, this should only be considered under strict medical supervision.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.