Dopamine and serotonin and nature’s way of making you feel good. Legal medications that you may take as antidepressants in addition to illegal drugs that some take recreationally all have something in common: they increase your uptake of either serotonin or dopamine. But you don’t need to take drugs, legal or otherwise, to experience a surge of pleasure. Here are five ways to increase your dopamine and serotonin in completely natural ways.
1. Get Sunlight
Humans evolved living most of their lives outdoors. Your whole sleep-wake cycle is based on being up and active through the daylight hours. Perhaps to encourage your ancient ancestors to get moving in the daytime, serotonin levels increase when you are in the sunlight, and the brighter and stronger the sunlight, the better.
Indoor lights just do not have the same effect, even lights that mimic daylight. That’s partly because being outside even on a cloudy day you gives you more light than you get inside with the brightest lights. Also, vitamin D is created when you are in sunlight, and vitamin D improves your serotonin levels.
Exercise boosts both your dopamine and serotonin levels, and it does this in many ways. It causes your brain to produce more of both of these hormones, and it causes your brain to use them more efficiently. The problem is, when your serotonin levels are low you are less likely to want to exercise. But you don’t need to exercise hard to get the benefits. In fact, pushing yourself too hard doesn’t have the same positive effects, though if you’re in good shape already then pushing yourself a little harder is fine.
If you are not in the habit of exercising consistently, then going for a walk or bike ride works just fine. The best news is that once you start exercising, your serotonin and dopamine levels will increase and you will feel more like continuing on and possibly pushing yourself a bit harder.
3. Eat the Right Foods
You can increase your serotonin and dopamine levels through your diet. Yes, pleasurable foods such as junk foods do increase the release of these hormones, but they can also cause the hormone levels to drop shortly after, similar to the way simple carbohydrates spike your blood sugar levels and then set you up for a crash. Some healthy foods help keep your dopamine and serotonin levels more consistently higher.
The amino acid tyrosine is important in boosting your dopamine levels. Foods that are high in protein such as fish, lean meats, eggs, and sea vegetables are good choices, but not processed meats such as luncheon meats, bacon, and sausages. Other foods are good choices because they contain tyrosine, precursors to tyrosine or other components such as betaine, which help the body effectively use these hormones.
Some examples include nuts and seeds, avocados, ripe bananas, beets, dark chocolate, wheat germ, and cottage cheese. Caffeine, something you may tend to reach for even more often when you’re feeling down, actually decreases your serotonin levels, so do not consume too much of it.
4. Get a Massage
Several studies have shown a boost in serotonin levels associated with massage. In one study, infants were given a 15-minute massage twice per week. In six weeks the babies’ serotonin levels increased 34 percent. Similar results have been seen in other studies, including those where test subjects were clinically depressed.
5. Kiss, Touch and Make Love
Any affectionate touching boosts your levels of both serotonin and dopamine, including holding hands, hugging, cuddling and stroking. Kissing and making love are particularly effective.
As with exercise, sometimes when your levels of these hormones are low, you are less likely to want an intimate touch, and the solution is the same. Start slow. As you touch, your serotonin and dopamine levels will increase. That will lead you to be more receptive to more intimate touching, which increases the levels more.
No matter how happy or contented you are with life, there’s always room for being happier and more content. An important part of feeling good is the levels of the “feel-good” hormones dopamine and serotonin. When their levels are low, it can make you less likely to want to do the things that stimulate them, but a small amount of effort can give you very big rewards.