Have you been feeling down in the dumps lately? As with all emotions, these feelings have a relatively simple medical explanation behind them – in this case, the chemicals of serotonin and dopamine. As you will discover, increasing the levels of these substances through diet and healthy lifestyle choices can make getting through your daily routine a much more pleasant experience.
The Two Chemicals in a Nutshell
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in your body’s brain, digestive tract, blood platelets and pineal gland. Generally, your mood is closely related to the amount of serotonin produced in your brain. Lower amounts of this chemical are usually associated with downbeat moods, and in more serious cases can cause depression. Likewise, elevated levels of serotonin generally lead to happier feelings and a better sense of mental wellbeing.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter produced by the brain. Higher levels of dopamine have been conclusively linked with good moods, pleasure and motivation for achieving future goals. Not surprisingly, people with deficiencies of this chemical are at risk for a number of medical problems, including depression, weight gain and potentially even Parkinson’s disease.
Naturally Increasing Serotonin and Dopamine
Eating the right kinds of foods can give your body’s level of serotonin and dopamine a boost. Protein-heavy foods of all types are a good bet. The list includes turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, and eggs. Vegetables are also known for their serotonin-increasing qualities, and herbs like ginseng, nettles, red clover, and peppermint are good for dopamine production. If you’re in the mood for a nice drink, pour a cup of black tea, green tea, or milk, as each beverage increases production of dopamine.
Caffeinated coffee may give you a short term energy boost, but drinking it in excess of two cups a day depletes your supply of serotonin. In moderation, however, coffee does increase your amount of both serotonin and dopamine. Alcohol and sugar are also ingredients that can stymie serotonin production inside your body, and excessive amounts of both can also disrupt the brain’s ability to release dopamine. Additionally, make sure to pass on sugary snacks like candy bars; instead, opt for nuts that are high in protein and healthy fat, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts and hazelnuts.
Getting in your eight hours of sleep per night is also good for your serotonin and dopamine levels. While it’s counterproductive to get long periods of make-up sleep during the day, short naps are helpful for maintaining healthy amounts of both chemicals. During your waking hours, try to get about 15-20 minutes of daily exercise. Beneficial activities not only include common exercises such as walking, jogging, and weight lifting, but also regular tasks such as yard work or climbing flights of steps.
Finally, Vitamins such as B6 and B12 are converted into serotonin and dopamine by your body. Foods rich in B6 include whole grains, walnuts, legumes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, brown rice, hazelnuts, avocados and bananas. B12 can be found in eggs, fish, cheese and meat.