How to Increase Serotonin: 9 Natural Methods

Updated in March 2024

Serotonin levels can be increased using natural methods like increasing activity levels, having a massage done, or maintaining a healthy that is rich in tryptophan. However, in more severe cases where activities are not enough to increase serotonin levels, your doctor may recommend the use of supplements to promote optimal well-being.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced from an amino acid, tryptophan. It plays a role in several bodily functions, like regulating sleep, maintaining body temperature, promoting optimal mood and well-being, and improving cognitive functions. 

It is important for serotonin levels to be within normal ranges to ensure the maximum possible health benefits. Learn more about what serotonin is and what can cause low levels.

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9 ways to increase serotonin

Serotonin can be increased by:

1. Engaging in physical activity

Practicing physical activity helps to increase serotonin levels, as exercising naturally increases the production and release of tryptophan. This is an amino acid that is essential for the production of serotonin.

Exercising regularly or at a high intensity can help to increase serotonin levels in the blood, and can promote well-being and an improved quality of life.

Although all types of physical activity can stimulate serotonin production, aerobic exercises are usually associated with a higher level of neurotransmitter production. Therefore, many can benefit from running, swimming, walking or dancing.

2. Getting sun every day 

Some studies show that daily sun exposure can also increase serotonin levels. Sun exposure promotes the production of vitamin D, which has a direct impact on tryptophan metabolism and, consequently, leads to the formation of serotonin.

Therefore, to increase your vitamin D and serotonin levels, be sure to receive 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day, ideally avoiding the hottest hours of the day so that you can avoid using sunscreen.

3. Eating foods with tryptophan

Food is essential for the production of serotonin, as optimal tryptophan levels are obtained through consuming the right foods.

Also recommended: Tryptophan: Health Benefits, Foods & Recommended Dose

You should aim to include foods with tryptophan in your diet, like cheese, salmon, eggs, bananas, avocados, walnuts and cocoa.

4. Participating in relaxing activities

Some relaxing activities such as massages and yoga, for example, can also help increase serotonin levels. These activities can help to regulate nerve signals and improve neurotransmitter activity, which can promote well-being.

Furthermore, these activities can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, as well as regulate cortisol levels, which have a counteracting action to serotonin.

5. Consuming probiotic foods

Probiotics are also a natural way to increase serotonin, as most of the serotonin in the body is produced by good bacteria present in the intestines.

Therefore consuming probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha or tempeh can increase the amount of good intestinal bacteria, and consequently the production of substances used to produce serotonin. Check-out a list of probiotic foods that you can add to your diet.

6. Taking supplements

When natural techniques are not sufficient to increase serotonin, the doctor may prescribe supplements that increase tryptophan levels to ensure optimal serotonin levels.

Some of the supplements your doctor may consider include 5-HTP, which can easily reach the nervous system and trigger serotonin production, as well a tryptophan supplement, when it is not possible to obtain ideal amounts through diet.

Some studies also suggest that the use of probiotics can also increase serotonin levels, as they naturally increase tryptohan levels.

Also recommended: Probiotics: 12 Health Benefits, Foods, Supplements (& How to Take)

It is important to take supplements as prescribed by your doctor or registered dietitian, as dosing can vary depending on each person's individual needs.

7. Using adaptogenic medicinal plants

Adaptogenic medicinal plants help increase the body's capacity to deal with stress and anxiety, normalizing and balancing the levels of hormones, such as serotonin.

Some adaptogenic medicinal plants that can be used to increase serotonin are ginseng, ashwagandha and St. John's wort.

8. Practicing meditation

Meditation helps reduce chronic stress, which can interfere with the action or production of serotonin. 

Therefore, you can practice meditation every day to increase serotonin levels, using different techniques like guided meditation, mindfulness, tai-chi or yoga.

9. Sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night

Sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night helps to regulate hormones like cortisol, which can reduce chronic stress and normalize serotonin levels.

You should sleep 8 to 9 hours a night and practice optimal sleep hygiene by establishing a sleeping and waking routine, exercising sleep and avoid the consuming caffeine or alcohol at night.