Depression and anxiety just rob the joy out of life. There is a chemical in our body that can help alleviate depression and anxiety and this chemical is serotonin. Often when we are depressed or anxious, it relates to the amount of serotonin available for use by our brain and nervous system.
Serotonin is produced by our nerve cells. It is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between brain cells and helps to regulate our mood and nervous system. About 90% or serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal tract and can also act as a hormone.
When someone experiences depression or anxiety, it can be related to the lack of availability of serotonin ready for uptake in our brains. These medications make it where more serotonin hanging out in the brain to be accessed and thereby helping to improve your mood.
5 Ways to Naturally Increase Serotonin
There are also natural ways to boost your serotonin. Below are some of the ways, backed by science, that can help boost this important neurotransmitter to help you improve your mood.
1. Get Outdoors
Being out in nature can have a calming effect on our nervous system. Being out in nature has another benefit. Being out in the sunlight and soaking up the sun can help produce vitamin D in your body.
The lack of vitamin D has been associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. So, to help improve symptoms of depression, spending time each day out in the sunlight can help manage your sad mood.
If you don't have the luxury of spending time outdoors because of your busy school or work schedule, there are vitamin D supplements you can take. But first, see your doctor and have your labs drawn to see if you are deficient in vitamin D. Then, follow your doctor's orders for type and amount of vitamin D supplements to take.
You can also use light therapy to help produce vitamin D. A light lamp that produces 10,000 lux is what you want to look for. Spending 45 minutes a day in front of this light lamp can help the body produce vitamin D.
You can find light therapy lamps on most of the well-known retailers. They are easy to use in fact, as I'm typing this blog post, I have my light therapy lamp on my desk shining brightly!
2. Focus on Gut Health
When I tell people that most of a neurotransmitter used in the brain is produced in the stomach, it comes as a surprise. But it is true.
And if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, supporting your 'gut health' can be an important step in helping you produce serotonin. There are naturopathic doctors who can run tests to identify the best way to help support the health of your stomach to optimize serotonin production.
There are many different kinds of probiotics around that can help support stomach health. But which one is the right one for you? This is where getting an assessment and instruction for a naturopathic doctor can help. They can identify the right probiotic that will optimize your stomach health and serotonin production.
3. Mindfulness Meditation Can Be as Good as an Antidepressant
Another study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that mindfulness-based meditation over an 8-week period of time was as effective as the anti-anxiety medication, escitalopram.
If you are new at meditation, there are many apps that can help get you started and lead you through mindfulness-based meditation.
4. Diet & Over the Counter Supplements
Improving your diet to include foods high in protein can help improve the available serotonin for your brain. These high protein foods help produce tryptophan which later becomes serotonin.
Some foods that can aid in the production of tryptophan include:
There are also dietary supplements that you can take that can help improve serotonin production. However, before starting to take a supplement, it is important to check with your doctor first.
For example, if you are already taking an antidepressant or antianxiety medication, adding a dietary supplement that can further increase the amount of serotonin in the brain can lead to serotonin syndrome. This can be a dangerous and life-threatening condition.
While there is scientific evidence supporting the use of dietary supplements to help improve mood, checking with your doctor is always a good first step.
Some of the dietary supplements that have been shown to help with depression and anxiety include:
SAMe (while this is not indicated for teens 18 or younger)
St. John's Wort
5. Regular Exercise
While we all know that getting regular exercise can help lift your mood as it releases the "feel good" chemicals in our brain, this can be a tricky one for someone who is depressed. While exercise has shown in some studies to be as effective as antidepressant medication, some of the symptoms of depression act counter to exercising.
For example, some of the symptoms of depression include lethargy, fatigue, lack of interest in things that you used to find enjoyable, hopelessness, among others. It can be challenging when you are depressed to force yourself to exercise regularly when it's feels too difficult to simply get out of bed that day.
Yet, if you can find the motivation and push yourself to exercise regularly, exercise can be effective in helping to increase the serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins.
When Depression & Anxiety Persist: Talk Therapy or Neurofeedback
If you find that you continue to struggle with depression or anxiety despite your best efforts, there is hope. Talk therapy has shown to be effective in helping people overcome depression and anxiety.
Neurofeedback is another excellent option and has shown to be highly effective. With neurofeedback, we identify the regions of your brain that are over or under performing and that may be leading to your symptoms. We then train the brain through the use of sophisticated computer software to optimize the brain's performance alleviating or eliminating the symptoms.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have talk therapists and a neurofeedback therapist Board Certified in Neurofeedback (BCN) ready to help you. We also have a neurofeedback therapist who has been providing neurofeedback since 2013.
We specialize in teen, young adult, and family therapy. If you are ready to start overcoming these emotional obstacles that stand in your way, we are ready to help!
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: 70+ Years of Combined Experience in Teen Therapy Katy, TX & Houston
Depression sucks! It zaps the life out of a person and anxiety isn't too far behind it. It can be hard for parents too as we are searching for ways to just help our kids feel happy and find their drive and excitement for life again.
Emotional challenges can run deep and are often complex. There are answers and there is a pathway through where life can feel bright and happy again.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we specialize in teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy. At our Katy, TX location, we are ready to help. If you are ready to start, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Talk with one of our caring therapists
Begin the healing process today!
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling can be very effective. The secret ingredients to success is each person willing to look at themselves and work to do things differently, together. When a marriage counselor or couples therapist has this to work with, the success rate can be very high.
Sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:
Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.
Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.
Feeling like you're growing apart.
Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling and Katy Counseling for Men.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, counseling young adults, and family counseling.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing expert coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy call, text, or email us today!
Phone Number: 281-519-6364