Depression Treatment How to Increase Serotonin Try these strategies to help boost your mood By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 19, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Getty / Kosamtu If you're interested in finding ways to improve your mood, you may have heard that increasing serotonin can be helpful. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating mood and emotion. Many people think of serotonin as the "happy chemical" because it's associated with feelings of well-being, happiness, and calmness. Strategies that can help you increase serotonin naturally include getting enough sunlight, eating foods that contain tryptophan, regulating your stress levels, exercising regularly, practicing self-care, expressing gratitude, and spending time with people you love. Certain supplements, medications, and psychotherapy can also help boost serotonin levels. Below are some ways that you can increase serotonin levels. Get Enough Sunlight Every Day Aim for at least 30 minutes. Whether you bask in your backyard, take a brisk walk around the block, or simply sit near a sunny window, getting some natural light will help increase your serotonin levels. Eat More Tryptophan-rich Foods Tryptophan is an amino acid that's needed for serotonin production. Include more tryptophan-rich foods in your diet, such as the ones below: TurkeyEggsCheeseNuts and seedsBeans Reduce Stress Levels Chronic stress can lead to low serotonin levels, so it's important to ensure that your stress levels are under control. If a life situation is the cause of your stress, do your best to change it. If you can't change it, try to find ways to cope with the stress in a healthy way, such as through exercise, relaxation techniques, or counseling. Exercise Regularly Even moderate exercise can make a difference. Research shows that people who get regular exercise have higher levels of serotonin than sedentary folks. Below are some ideas of how to get exercise: Take a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes every day.Join an exercise class at your local gym.Ride your bike instead of driving whenever possible. Take Care of Yourself Emotionally If you're dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression, it can have a negative impact on your serotonin levels. Consider talking to a therapist to help you work through any emotional issues you may be facing. If therapy is not an option, writing regularly in a journal can also be helpful. Incorporate a Bit of Sleep Deprivation This one may sound strange, but sleep deprivation can actually increase serotonin levels. However, it's important to note that this should only be done in moderation and with your doctor's approval. Practice Stress-Relieving Activities Such as Yoga or Meditation If you've never tried yoga or meditation, now might be the time to give it a shot. These activities have been shown to help reduce stress and promote relaxation, both of which can help increase serotonin levels. Spend Time With Loved Ones Socializing with friends, family, and loved ones can help improve your mood and increase serotonin levels. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and avoid those who bring you down. Get Regular Massages Massages are not only relaxing, but they can also help to reduce stress. A study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that people who used a massage chair had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower perceived depression. Try a Supplement (After Consulting With Your Healthcare Provider) If you're not able to get enough sunlight, eat a balanced diet, or exercise regularly, taking a supplement may help increase your serotonin levels. Below are some to try: Vitamin D3: This vitamin may help to reduce feelings of depression.5-HTP: This is a precursor to serotonin that can help increase levels of the neurotransmitter.L-tryptophan: This amino acid is needed for serotonin production. Including it in your diet or taking it as a supplement may help increase serotonin levels.St. John's wort: This herb has been shown to be effective in reducing depression, which may involve low serotonin levels. Listen to Calming Music or Read Positive Affirmations Listening to calming music or reading positive affirmations can help you relax and focus on the positive. This, in turn, can help increase your serotonin levels. Below are some affirmations to try. I am happy and healthyI am surrounded by love and positivityI am worthy of happiness and successI am in control of my life and my destiny 25 Positive Daily Affirmations to Recite for Your Mental Health Spend Time in Nature There's something about being in nature that just makes you feel good. Maybe it's the fresh air, the sound of the waves, or the beauty of the landscape. Whatever it is, spending time in nature has been shown to help reduce stress and improve mood, both of which can help increase serotonin levels. Below are some ideas for getting outside. Go for a walk in the park Lay in the grass and look at the clouds Visit a botanical garden Take a hike in the woods Sit by a lake or pond Listen to the birds sing Connect With Your Spiritual Side Whether you consider yourself religious or not, connecting with your spiritual side can help reduce stress and promote peace and calm, both of which can help increase serotonin levels. Below are some ways to connect with your spirituality. Pray or meditate Read religious or spiritual texts Attend religious services Talk to a clergy member or spiritual guru Volunteer for a religious or spiritual organization Help Others Doing good deeds for others can help you feel good about yourself, and that may lead to increased serotonin levels. Whether you volunteer your time, donate money to a worthy cause, or just do something nice for someone, the act of helping others can make you feel better. Below are some ideas to get you started. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bankVisit a nursing home or assisted living facilityHelp a neighbor with yard work or choresDonate to your favorite charityTutor a child in need Connect With Animals Spending time with animals has been shown to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve mood. If you don't have a pet, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or going on a nature hike where you're likely to see some wildlife. Below are some ideas for connecting with animals. Adopt a pet from a local shelter Spend time at a farm or ranch Go bird watching Watch a cute animal video Practice Gratitude When you're feeling down, it's easy to focus on all the negative things in your life. But taking a moment to focus on the things you're grateful for can help shift your perspective and improve your mood. And that can lead to increased serotonin levels. Below are some ideas for practicing gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you're thankful for each day Share your blessings with others by telling them what you're grateful for Send a thank you note to someone who has done something nice for you Make a list of all the good things that have happened to you in the past year Laugh more Laughter really is the best medicine. It's been shown to boost mood, relieve stress, and improve overall health. So go ahead and watch your favorite comedy, read a funny book, or spend time with people who make you laugh. It'll do your mind and body good. Take a Warm Bath or Use Aromatherapy Try aromatherapy using essential oils such as lavender or chamomile. Aromatherapy has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation, both of which can help increase serotonin levels. A Word From Verywell Mind If you think you might be suffering from a serotonin deficiency, it's important to talk to your doctor. Low serotonin levels can be linked to serious health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Treating these conditions can help improve your overall well-being and quality of life. The Evidence Is In: Depression Might Not Be Linked to Low Serotonin After All 15 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Alenina N, Klempin F. The role of serotonin in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. 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Tryptophan supplementation and serotonin function: genetic variations in behavioural effects. Proc Nutr Soc. 2018;77(2):174-188. doi:10.1017/S0029665117004451 Ng QX, Venkatanarayanan N, Ho CY. Clinical use of Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) in depression: A meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2017;210:211-221. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.12.048 Peselow E, Pi S, Lopez E, Besada A, Ishak WW. The impact of spirituality before and after treatment of major depressive disorder. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2014;11(3-4):17-23. Yim J. Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2016;239(3):243-249. doi:10.1620/tjem.239.243 Farrar AJ, Farrar FC. Clinical Aromatherapy. Nurs Clin North Am. 2020;55(4):489-504. doi:10.1016/j.cnur.2020.06.015 By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology. 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