Feeling blue, lethargic, unmotivated, tired and anxious can be a sign that your body is low on serotonin -- a powerful neurotransmitter that is responsible for helping regulate your mood. While medications are often prescribed to stimulate its production, there are also natural ways you can help boost your serotonin levels to battle the blues. One of the most effective things you can do is exercise. Along with other activities, exercise increases both the production and release of serotonin into your body, making you less likely to experience depression and more likely to enjoy your life.
Almost any exercise or physical activity can boost your serotonin levels, but aerobic, cardio-based exercise is particularly helpful in its production. As little as 15 to 20 minutes of movement such as running, walking, swimming, biking or working out on an elliptical machine or stair-stepper can help your body release serotonin and generate a helpful mood-boost. For even more health benefits, though, aim for the American Heart Association’s recommended 30 minutes of activity five days a week.
Getting out in the sunshine is another powerful way to stimulate your body’s production of serotonin. While absorbing too many ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase your risk of cancer, getting just enough allows your skin to absorb vitamin D, which helps produce serotonin. To reap even more mood-boosting benefits, use your outdoor time for exercise. Go for a run, walk or bike ride to release serotonin through both exercise and the absorption of vitamin D.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, yoga can help by increasing serotonin and reducing stress. “Yoga Journal” reports that yoga poses and programs raise serotonin levels and lower your level of the neurochemical monoamine oxidase, which contributes to depression. Yoga also reduces your level of the stress-related hormone cortisol and is known to stimulate your body’s relaxation response.
One activity you can do to help your body produce more serotonin involves no physical exertion at all. The only thing you have to do is lie on a table and relax. Physical touch plays a key role in your body’s serotonin production, and "Psychology Today" reports that studies on multiple groups, including pregnant women and infants, have shown that regular massages can raise serotonin levels by more than 30 percent.
While these exercises and activities can help you produce more serotonin, medical attention may still be necessary. If you are suffering from symptoms such as depressed mood, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, lack of energy, weight fluctuations, suicidal or self-harming thoughts or a loss of interest in people or activities, seek help from your physician. He may be able to prescribe helpful medications or test for other underlying medical issues contributing to the problem.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.