6 Habits That Can Lower The "Feel Good" Chemicals In Your Brain
by Carina Wolff

When it comes to chemicals that affect our mood, most of us are the most familiar with serotonin. The neurotransmitter is responsible for dictating everything from our happiness to our energy levels and even how well we sleep. Unfortunately, there are a number of everyday habits that can lower serotonin levels, but reducing these habits can help ensure you feel better all around.

"Serotonin is one of the primary neurotransmitters thought to strongly impact mental health and wellness," psychiatrist Melissa Deuter, MD tells Bustle. "Medications that alter the flow of serotonin are the first line treatments for both anxiety and depression. Research studies generally associate higher measurable serotonin levels with more positive mood and lower levels with decreased well-being. A healthy lifestyle can optimize serotonin flow in people without mental health conditions, while unhealthy practices can increase risk for conditions to arise."

If you've been struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression, feelings of fatigue, sleep issues, memory issues, or any other similar problem, you might want to make some changes to your everyday routine — starting with ditching habits that could affect the chemical balance in your body. Here are six everyday habits to ditch that could lead to lower serotonin levels.


Spending Too Much Time On The Couch

Binge watching television from time to time is definitely necessary for the soul, but make it too much of an everyday habit, and your serotonin levels could take a hit. Multiple studies have found that exercise increases both serotonin production and release, so being inactive can put you at risk for lower levels of the neurotransmitter. "In fact, exercise outperforms a prescription drug that aims to boost serotonin over the long term, so don't underestimate the power of a jog, a bike ride, or a yoga class," psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow, Psy.D, Ph.D tells Bustle.


Staying Inside

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Not everyone is an outdoorsy person, but spending too much time cooped up indoors can cause your serotonin levels to drop, as sunlight is an important source of the neurotransmitter. Lack of sunlight can cause difficulties concentrating, moodiness, and loss of interest in daily activities, according to WebMD.


Not Eating A Balanced Diet

Your diet plays a role in how you feel, and certain nutrient deficiencies can cause your serotonin levels to drop, including too few carbohydrates, not enough fermented foods, and a lack of B vitamins. "B vitamins work as activators that turn amino acids in your diet into the neurotransmitter serotonin," says Dr. Dow. "By eating lots and lots of veggies and whole fruits, you'll ensure [that you get] lots of those B's (including the natural form of vitamin B9 aka folate found in veggies like spinach)." Probiotic-rich foods can help keep your gut healthy, which is important since 95 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut.


Drinking Too Much Coffee

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Although drinking caffeine can give you that much-needed boost of energy, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. "Although having a cup of coffee can increase the serotonin in our system temporarily, if you drink too much caffeine and become addicted to it, the caffeine withdrawal causes a serious serotonin deficit," psychotherapist Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT tells Bustle.


Skipping Out On Sleep

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Skipping out on a good night's sleep can do more than just make you feel tired — it can damper your serotonin production. A study from the journal Sleep found that not getting enough sleep gradually desensitizes serotonin receptors. This puts you at a higher risk for disorders such as depression, making it essential to get in your zzz's each night.


Not Being Present

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Letting your mind wander to anxieties about the future might seem harmless at the time, but it can actually make us unhappy. "Research shows us that mindfulness increases dopamine and serotonin levels — with the opposite being true too," says Wright. "If we don’t take the time to just be, our cortisol levels can stay too high. And when our cortisol levels are too high for too long, cortisol goes around like Pac Man eating ghosts — with the ghosts being serotonin."

Reducing these habits can help keep your serotonin levels stable so you can feel happy and energized.