How to be Happy: boost your serotonin levels through the day

Breathe fresh air! Image: Danka Peter
Breathe fresh air! Image: Danka Peter

Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel as good every day of the year as we do in the long, warm days of summer? Waking up to the sun streaming through your window is one the most mood-alleviating ways to start a day, and a good start sets the precedent for the hours to follow.

To start: Go outside!

If time allows it, get outside in the morning before you begin your day. Frost or fog, rain or shine, there’s usually no real reason you can’t get out for 15-20 minutes. Take the whole family with you if needs be, and return home after a brisk walk to a healthy breakfast. The fresh air and a little exercise will lift everyone up for the rest of the day.

A citrus lift: Lemon ginger tea

Once back inside, set the kettle to boil and prepare a mood-lifting lemon and ginger tea. The freshness and naturally uplifting scent will complement your feeling of spritely vitality, and you’ll want to repeat the process every morning.

Keep the stimulants to a minimum

Try not to rely too heavily on stimulants such as coffee or sugar. They might feel good in the short-term, but ultimately they won’t do much to raise your mood. Stick to just one or two coffees per day if you have to get your fix, but sugar is best avoided altogether (apart from the unprocessed natural varieties).

Eat proteins and fats

Protein-rich foods contain a good dose of Trytophan, a large amino acid that converts into serotonin in the brain. You’ll find it in lean meats and fish, as well as cottage cheese and eggs for dairy-eating vegetarians, and nuts and beans for vegans.

Despite what the tireless pushing of ‘low fat’ diets might suggest, some fats are actually good for you, and your hormonal processes need them to function properly. You can get the fats you need from eggs and dairy and fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and tuna. Vegetarians and vegans can get their fill from avocados, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils (almond, avocado, flax, olive, walnut), and seeds.

Get pumped

Exercise isn’t just about looking good – it’s about feeling good too. A workout at some point in the day can easily be worked into a routine, and sticking to it will make you feel good in itself. Exercise naturally boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, so you’ll feel as great as your body looks.

Top up with 5-HTP

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a compound created from tryptophan in the body. 5-HTP supplements are used to boost serotonin levels, and are said to aid a much better sleep. 5-HTP is used for several applications:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraine
  • Weight loss

Get a good night’s sleep

Having taken your 5-HTP supplements to aid sleep (or not, if you don’t need the top-up), try to get a really good sleep. Under-sleeping is a deadly mood-killer. Seven hours of sleep is great, but don’t oversleep either. Make yourself jump out of bed in the morning, ready for the next brisk walk. If you need a nap come midday, take one! Snooze for 10-20 minutes to wake up feeling refreshed and alert, or give yourself 90 minutes for a full sleep cycle if you have the time.

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