SAD? 5 Ways to increase serotonin when the seasons change

Fall is the season of change. The leaves begin to fall, the weather becomes cooler and the days become shorter. With the natural change in seasons, other changes to our daily routines may occur.

We typically spend less time outdoors, or changes to our sleep schedules might change with the rapid change in daylight. Sometimes this can all add up when the seasons change and for many it has an impact on our mood

Changes in our mood can range from mild to more severe and our stress levels might increase as a result of change happening around us. Sometimes we might even tend to let go of our healthy habits such as exercise, meditation, healthy eating and other day to day routines. This can sometimes contribute to feeling burnt out, or might even be diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder or SAD disorder, especially during the winter months. 

If you are someone who experiences a change in mood during the fall and winter season or might be experiencing it for the first time, let’s look into some helpful ways to increase our happy hormone serotonin!

Serotonin, GABA and Dopamine

We have many neurotransmitters in the body, each responsible for a different set of functions. Many of these neurotransmitters work together to help regulate our mood, sleep, energy, and behavior. When speaking about mood, serotonin is the neurotransmitter most responsible for regulating our mood, sleep and the body’s circadian rhythm. 

If you have low serotonin levels you may experience:

  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Feelings of depression or feeling sad
  • Chronic stress
  • Changes in sleep
  • Memory or learning issues
  • Loss or change in appetite
  • Other health problems such as chronic pain and chronic fatigue


The cause of serotonin deficiency in an individual is often unknown, and cannot be directly identified by doctors. Causes are typically a combination of factors including genetics and lifestyle. Lifestyle factors include hormone shifts, lack of sunlight, poor nutrition, medications and chronic stress. In the next section we will look at natural and easy ways to help boost serotonin. 

GABA is another important neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood. Gaba plays an important role in sleep and reducing feelings of anxiety. 

Low levels of GABA can make you feel anxious, irritable and nervous. Individuals who exhibit these symptoms can sometimes experience panic attacks, restlessness. These can also be symptoms of people with depression. 

There are natural supplements known to help increase the action of GABA on the gaba receptors. This helps to calm the mind and reduce feelings of stress, nervousness and restlessness. Passionflower and valerian are two herbs known to help calm the mind and promote restful sleep. 

Dopamine is another important neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood in conjunction with serotonin. Dopamine is responsible for motivation, desire and cravings. This can have an impact on mood, sleep, concentration and alertness. 

Although dopamine cannot be taken in supplement form, levels of dopamine are known to increase with exercise. In the next section we will discuss why exercise is an important lifestyle choice to help promote a healthy balanced mood. 

5 Ways to improve your mood naturally:

Changes in mood when the seasons change is common and affects people in early fall and into the winter months. Knowing to recognize when your mood is changing is the first step in taking action to help promote a happier mood.  

Let’s look at 5 ways to help promote the happy hormone serotonin as well as GABA and dopamine as mentioned above.


Diet plays an important part in our physical, mental and emotional health. Eating a well balanced nutritious diet is crucial for supporting our body’s metabolic needs, to prevent disease and balance hormones. 

Serotonin cannot be directly absorbed from food, but an amino acid found in food called tryptophan can be converted into serotonin when consumed. Foods high in tryptophan include salmon, nuts and seeds, turkey and poultry, eggs, dairy products, tofu and soy. 

It is also a good habit to reduce foods and products that are known to decrease serotonin levels in the body. These include artificial sweeteners, alcohol and excess caffeine consumption. Restrictive diets and foods lacking in sufficient carbohydrates, B vitamins and amino acids are also known to reduce serotonin levels in the body.


Exercise, like a well-balanced diet, plays an important role in both physical and mental health. Exercise not only increases dopamine and a feeling of bliss, but increases tryptophan in the blood. 

Movement, especially aerobic exercise is recommended for at least 20 minutes one time per day. Ideas for light exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and hiking. 

When the season’s change we are less inclined to move outside and sometimes let the weather dictate our schedule. If you aren’t ready to brave the elements there are many indoor activities to get your heart pumping. Try looking online for quick easy to do at home workouts and break a sweat! Dancing is always a fun way to introduce exercise and boost your mood! 


Research has identified a possible link between light and serotonin levels. Especially apparent in people with SAD, as the name suggests, the change in season is correlated with lower mood. 

When the time changes, and we have less and less sunlight it can be difficult to get enough sun exposure. Prioritizing time outside once daily can be effective in helping to increase Vitamin D and serotonin levels. Try and take your exercise outside when possible or look into light therapy treatments. 


Supplements can play a key role in helping to establish higher levels of serotonin in your system. As mentioned, tryptophan is effective in helping the body create serotonin and can be taken in supplement form. 

Supplements containing St. John’s Wort can help to increase serotonin neurotransmission and may help to balance one’s mood. Neurapas Balance is a triple herbal combination of St. John’s wort, passionflower and valerian to help promote a healthy balanced mood. 

Probiotics & Gut Health

Ever heard of the gut-brain axis? Well, our gut and our brain are more closely linked than you might think. The majority of our body’s serotonin is stored in our gut. 

Promoting a healthy gut flora and microbiome can help the body produce and store serotonin. Probiotics and prebiotics can be in supplement form or from foods rich in probiotics and prebiotic fibre. 


Our mood changes from day to day, but chronic and long term changes in mood and depression should be consulted with a healthcare professional. Please speak with your doctor if you have symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. 



Pascoe Canada does not offer health or medical advice as we are not a healthcare practitioner. Please speak with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any program related to nutrition, diet, exercise, fitness, medical, and/or wellness. All content published by Pascoe Canada is developed through collaborating with licensed medical professionals and contributors. This includes text, graphics, images, and other material on the website, newsletter, and products (“Content”). This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The content does not substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always do your own research on whether this is for you along with your healthcare practitioner advice. Always consult your healthcare practitioner prior to using specific herbs because you might have underlying conditions that need professional care. The content is general in nature and is subject to change. It is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects.



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