2. Eat Your Greens
The University of Kuopio in Finland conducted a study with 2,313 men for more than 10 years and they found that leafy greens are good for your brain. Greens are high in almost all vitamins and minerals but they are particularly high in folate – a B vitamin that has been shown to reduce depression. Read more about greens and spinach, the first powerfood.
3. Enjoy Your Bananas (and other fruits)
Even fruits have amino acids in them and bananas are surprisingly high in tryptophan. That along with its natural sugars makes an ideal situation for creating serotonin. This is not why monkeys seem so happy but it sure doesn’t hurt! Dates and papaya are also high in tryptophan, but most fruits have enough to make a difference. Any food with a sweet taste will have a calming effect on the nervous system beyond its carbohydrate content.
4. Avoid Stimulants & Junk Food (that includes chocolate …sob)
Stimulants like chocolate and coffee do create serotonin for a short time but continued use actually interferes with its production by disrupting your insulin levels.
Ice cream unfortunately is in the same category. The milk aspect will supply the amino acids and it has the carbohydrates, but too much sugar and fat is just a bad combination in the long run. Any of these “foods” taken in small amounts will not harm you but don’t depend on them for energy or happiness. In fact, you should learn how to decrease your cravings for sugar.
5. Eat Your Nuts and Seeds
Most people are low in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been shown to help increase brain functioning and moods. The brain is, after all, mostly made of fatty acids. A common way to get omega-3s is with flax seeds and flax oils. Whole seeds and nuts have the benefit of containing protein and therefore have enough tryptophan to help out. You can learn more about the benefits of almonds and other seeds and how to sprout them at Nuts & Seeds.
6. Let the Sun Shine In
Yes this is much more than a 60’s song title. People with SAD have been found to have higher levels of melatonin than they should during the day. Melatonin’s effects tend to be the exact opposite of serotonin. It causes the body to slow down and prepare for sleep instead of wake up and be happy.
When your body notices there is no sunlight, the pineal gland signals your brain to convert serotonin into melatonin. Normally in the morning the pineal gland then signals to your brain to start making more serotonin. With SAD this cycle has been disrupted because of decreasing daylight hours.
The solution is to add more sunlight – by walking outside, drawing back curtains or even using a sun light. The timing of the light is sometimes more important than the amount. David Avery, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington, suggests the simplest solution is to use a dawn simulator, a device that creates gradual light, or program your bedside lamp to turn on about 20 minutes before you wake up.
I believe nothing can beat a good walk during the brightest part of the day. This has far more benefits than just your serotonin/melatonin balance. Read how walking can Take Them Blues Away.