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Mental Health

A Serotonin Deficiency Makes You Feel Moody and Tired — Here’s How To Fix It

These natural remedies help keep "the winter blues" at bay.


During this time of the year, it’s natural to curl up on the couch and do nothing all day. Why? A lack of sunlight in the winter months causes our serotonin levels to dip. Serotonin, a.k.a. the “happy hormone,” is a chemical that helps regulate bodily functions including your mood, sleep, and digestion. A serotonin deficiency could cause sleep disturbances, digestive issues, and anxiety (hence why you may be sluggish or tired right now). The great news: By using natural remedies you can start feeling more like yourself in no time. Here are four simple ways to combat a serotonin deficiency and restore your energy all winter long.

To heal from the inside out, enjoy fish and shellfish.

Fish and shellfish are great sources of vitamin B12. In fact, the Season Nutrition Partnership reports that a four-ounce serving of clams contains a richer amount of vitamin B12 than cod or salmon. Why is B12 helpful? According to Healthline, vitamin B12 positively affects serotonin levels in the brain. Other great ways to get a vitamin B12 boost: Enjoy beef, chicken, eggs, yogurt, or cheese.

For an instant mood lifter, get yourself laughing.

Whether you laugh along with your favorite sitcom or giggle with your grandkids over a game of Go Fish, tickling your funny bone delivers a hefty serotonin boost. A 2018 study found that 30-minute laughter therapy sessions once a week helped participants increase their serotonin levels in four weeks. As a bonus, the sessions also reduced each patient’s systolic blood pressure (the bottom number) and heart rate. (Laughter really is the best medicine!)

To lower cortisol so serotonin can increase, try a foot massage.

A foot massage does more than revitalize tired tootsies: Research published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing suggests that regular foot massages may improve serotonin levels. In this case, participants receiving regular 30-minute foot reflexion massages had noticeably higher levels of serotonin than those who didn’t. (A reflexion massage is a type of foot massage that applies pressure to specific reflex points, which correspond to specific organ and areas of the body.) The experts at explain that massages decrease cortisol in the body, which is a stress hormone that impedes serotonin release.

To make sure your levels are up each day, take a saffron supplement.

You may already love cooking with the vivid spice saffron, but taking it in supplement form may also boost serotonin levels. A 2018 research review acknowledged the previously reported benefit that safranal (a compound in saffron) prevents reabsorption of serotonin — providing an anti-depressive effect. However, more research is needed to show that saffron directly boosts serotonin levels. Note: Always speak to your doctor before starting a new supplement.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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