If you do wish to increase your serotonin levels without exposing yourself to these dangers, there are natural alternatives that can also help you cope with symptoms — aka that can help you feel better, now. That can give you the time you need to make long term, positive changes in your life! The first is…
Natural Serotonin Boosting
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter created predominantly in the gut. You can safely increase your body’s natural production of serotonin by improving gut health with a powerful probiotic supplement, which is shown to relieve depression.Probiotics are available in more places than just pills: fermented foods like yogurt, kambucha and sauerkraut are powerhouse providers of these helpful gut flora, which I imagine like a happy garden full of singing plants, who all love you. Only they live in your bum and are actually sort of gross. Thus the happy highly preferable garden imagery.
If you have the ability to grow your own vegetables in natural, healthy soil, eating them fresh from the garden is also shown to increase probiotic health in your gut. Avoid antibiotics, antibacterial soap, and think about investing in a chlorine filter for your shower and drinking water—all of these kill the natural Helpful Bacteria in your body, leaving you at risk for fungal infections… and destroying your body’s ability to make serotonin and B-vitamins, also associated with happiness.
You can also increase your natural serotonin production by providing your body with the building blocks of serotonin; its molecular precursor, which is available as a supplement called 5-htp. This supplement is far more affordable than most serotonin reuptake inhibitors, is not addictive as frequently, and has significantly fewer side effects. B-vitamins can improve the rate at which tryptophans (the molecular precursor to serotonin) are converted to serotonin and absorbed by the brain.
If you’re looking for an herbal supplement, St. John’s Wart is an herb that naturally increases serotonin in the body. It’s been called the ‘natural serotonin reuptake inhibitor’. (Don’t take this with any pharmaceuticals that work on serotonin; you could cause too much serotonin in the body, which is toxic. Guess there can be too much of a good thing! Haha!)
Thoughts or Feelings… Which Comes First? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and It’s Alternatives
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the wunderkind of modern psychology, and with good reason! It’s got a low success rate, a high relapse rate, and fits neatly with a reductionist, mechanistic view of humanity. Sign me up!
I’m of course just joking. CBT can be really helpful, and if it helps you, I support it!
CBT is predicated on the idea that thoughts come first: you have a thought, and your body and emotions respond to that thought. This is certainly true sometimes! The principles of CBT are very useful in those cases, and in my experience, they are excellent for putting your mental house in order. CBT is a great tool for developing healthy mental habits; that alone can be enough to overcome the brunt of a mood disorder, and empower you to heal.
But there is growing evidence that, in many cases, emotions or physical sensations arise first, in the body… and our conscious mind, which is built to try and normalize our experience by providing a rational narrative of our experience, then produces a thought that could explain this feeling. In those cases, CBT misses the mark.
Especially where trauma is involved (and let’s be honest… when is trauma not involved?!) the body produces certain emotions, almost by instinct, and related thoughts then result. There are other treatments that are significantly more effective than CBT in those cases.
Alternatives to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — The Body, Soul and Mind
Unfortunately, many psychologists don’t know much beyond CBT and it’s dogmatic reign of terror… er, I mean, moderately consistent clinical results and institutionally accepted, mechanistic worldview. Cough, cough.