by Tony Gjokaj August 20, 2020 4 min read

You've had that scenario before, where running a mile at your nearest park made you feel 100x better... although you weren't initially motivated to do so.

I've had this countless times with physical exercise, where weightlifting completely revitalized my mood.

A lot of this has to do with the neurotransmitter known as serotonin.

In this post, we are going to cover serotonin, along with four ways to optimize it.

Let's dive in!

 

What Is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a powerful chemical and neurotransmitter that is found in our bodies, the food we consume, and sunlight.

Also known as our "feel-good hormone", serotonin has been shown to help with wellbeing, happiness, sleep quality, and cognitive health (among many other things).

Serotonin improves the production of acetylcholine, which helps with information processing and memory recollection. It is also a precursor to melatonin, as it sets the tone for our body's sleep cycle and overall quality of sleep.

As there is some correlation to low serotonin levels and depression, we wanted to explore optimizing serotonin in our bodies. In our quest for fat loss and overall health, sometimes we deplete our serotonin levels through dieting. Due to less consumption of tryptophan and our lethargy of staying indoors, sometimes our serotonin levels are not optimized.

So with that, let's explore 4 ways to optimize serotonin for mind and body health.

Optimizing Serotonin

While there are many ways to optimize serotonin, we are going to go over some of the most important factors that help with it.

I. Meditate to Feel Good.

Meditation is one of the most overlooked things in our society today. We believe that stillness in meditation or mindfulness is the key to overall health and happiness... and we have information to prove so.

Meditation is huge on serotonin production because of its relaxing capabilities. According to one systematic review, meditation has been shown to aid in the following ways:

  • Increases serotonin levels and overall wellbeing.
  • Reduces blood pressure, blood flow, and anxiety.
  • Improves sleep and digestion.

When it comes to meditation, we like to consider all forms of mindfulness exercises, including Yoga. Yoga has also been shown to improve serotonin levels due to its self-soothing capabilities.

Any type of productive and positive journaling, meditation, or yoga should be able to help with overall wellbeing. This is because these things allow us to improve our thoughts and mood, having a huge impact on mental health. 

Don't discount these things - something as simple as 5 to 10 minutes of meditation or stillness is huge.

    II. Get Some Sun to Feel Good.

    Sunlight is one of our favorite things to talk about because we never really get too much of it. One of the biggest challenges today is the lack of Vitamin D we get from sunlight. UV light to our body is absorbed to produce Vitamin D, which in turn, produces serotonin.

    A lot of us tend to work desk jobs or are late sleepers, so we end up accidentally avoiding sunlight. It gets worse when wintertime comes along, and our gloomy weather covers the sun's rays. Sunlight has been shown to have anti-depressant effects, which is why light therapy is used to combat depression in the wintertime. Light therapy is where people utilize artificial UV light to produce similar effects as sunlight, thereby reducing depression.

    While we can always supplement with Vitamin D for the worst-case scenario, consider getting some direct sunlight sun to optimize your Vitamin D levels.

    III. Exercise to Feel Good.

    We don't need to tell you that exercise is the catalyst to your greatest potential. It has personally helped me overcome severe depression, and helped create more positive habits for myself.

    It shouldn't be surprising that after the hundreds of other benefits, exercise has been shown to boost serotonin production. You know you feel good when you finish a run or a weight lifting session.

    While anaerobic or weight lifting does help, cardiovascular exercise has been best shown to improve serotonin production. We recommend implementing some form of cardiovascular exercise into your routine consistently.

    When you're not feeling motivated to exercise, this is the prime opportunity to do so. Build those serotonin levels.

    IV. Eat Well to Feel Good.

    We tend to neglect to eat properly when it comes to overall mind and body health. It's not a surprise that eating healthy can produce serotonin.

    Serotonin is produced within the body as a result of the amino acid known as tryptophan. Tryptophan is typically found from the foods that we eat.

    Here are some foods you can eat to produce tryptophan:

    • Eggs
    • Dairy (Cheese)
    • Chicken
    • Fish
    • Nuts
    • Oatmeal
    When eating foods with tryptophan, consider combining them with carbohydrates for better absorption in the brain.

      When dieting to lose weight, proper nutrition is extremely important as fat loss dieting has a large impact on our moods. Consider prioritizing these foods when you're dieting so that you can optimize your serotonin levels.

      Brain Empowered

      Now that you have four ways to optimize your serotonin levels, we want you to have a plan you can utilize for your brain health.

      Here's what we would consider to optimize serotonin levels:

      • Meditate 10 minutes a day.
      • Write in a journal or do yoga when you can.
      • Go outside and get sunlight for about 15-30 minutes per day.
      • Exercise 30-60 minutes for 3-5 days weekly. Consider cardiovascular exercise on 1-2 of those days.
      • Make sure you get protein with every meal.Focus on consuming fish, chicken, and turkey.

      Any questions or comments? Throw them below, or email me at tony@reforgedperformance.com.

      Until next time, Reforged Legion!

      Tony Gjokaj
      Tony Gjokaj

      Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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