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How to be happier without drugs?

Prozac, paxil, zoloft, celexa and lexapro, are just a few brands of serotonin that we prescribe for those who suffers from depression, and/or anxiety disorder.  There are evidence that these drugs can also improve premenopausal symptoms, even a role in treatment of obesity and parkinson disease.  Even though they are relatively safe, they are not without side effects. Scientific studies show that you can increase serotonin without drugs with the following simple strategies. 

1. Exercise, 

After exercise, the brain produces more serotonin. One study found more production of serotonin in the hipocampus which is where memory is processed. You are happier when you have better mental sharpness and memory. The recommended amount of exercise is 150minutes per week, either cardio or muscle toning.  Any physical activity including house work, however, is better than sitting at work all day, then sitting on the couch all night before going to bed.  You will be happier when you MOVE, with higher serotonin in your brain.

2. Sun light exposure, 

We know that sun light exposure is required to produce vitamine D in our body, and vitamine D is important not only to the bone health, but also battle cancer and heart diseases. In one study, serotonin were measured higher on those who died in the summer verses winter when light exposure is shorter than in the summer.  When you going outdoors, you might notice a new flowers, birds on your street or in your back yard. You might even say hello to your neighbors. Blue light from your cell phone screen, however, will affect your sleep patern, make you prone to insomnia. 

3. Positive mood, 

Change in thought and behavior, either by self discipline or by psychotherapy, you can maintain in a positive mood.  In turn, more serotonin will be maintained in your brain to keep your mental health.  A research measured serotonin synthesis by PET scan, in subjects underwent positive and negative mood induction.  It found higher serotonin synthesis in the right anterior cingulate cortex in the subjects underwent positive mood induction. 


Shawn Hamilton, MD Internal Medicine Physician

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