SEROTONIN – A HAPPY CHEMICAL
“70% of your serotonin is made in your gut. what’s going on in your gut is going to affect your mood – anxiety, depression and focus.”
Dr Frank Lipman
Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance that functions as a neurotransmitter to carry signals between nerve cells throughout your body. The neurotransmitter’s effect on mood is also why it’s often a target of medications that are used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. The neurotransmitter also plays a protective role in the gut. For example, if you eat something irritating or toxic, your gut responds by producing more serotonin. The extra “dose” of the chemical moves the unwanted food along, expelling it from your body more quickly. A hormone called melatonin is also critical to the proper functioning of your sleep cycle. Your body needs serotonin to make melatonin, so not having enough of the neurotransmitter (or having too much of it) can affect the pattern and quality of your sleep. An addition to altering your mood, serotonin can also influence the frequency and intensity of the sexual feelings you have.
WAYS TO INCREASE SEROTONIN LEVELS
H E A L T H Y F O O D
In order to keep the serotonin production high, your body needs to have plenty of appropriate nutrients at your disposal. Since many neurotransmitters are made our of amino acids from meats, fish, dairy and eggs, you should definitely include them in your diet. People who avoid eating meat and animal products might experience impaired production of serotonin and dopamine and start feeling moody, sad and depressed. Serotonin contributes to normal bowel function and reduces your appetite as you eat to help you know when you’re full. By eating REAL HEALTHY food, you will be able to loose excess weight and control your body weight.
E X E R C I S E
Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes each day improves one’s overall mood. Research has revealed that long-term cardiovascular exercise boosts serotonin levels in the brain.
S P E N D T I M E I N N A T U R E
In previous generations, humans spent most of their time outdoors. These days, many people work indoors, sitting at a desk under artificial lighting. Researchers have found as little as five minutes outdoors in a natural setting can improve mood, increase motivation, and boost self-esteem. The amount of time spent in sunlight correlates with serotonin and dopamine synthesis. Even a brief walk with your dog or children can improve your well-being.
M E D I T A T I O N
Meditation is the practice of relaxed and focused contemplation. Being a child of God, I usually meditate on Scriptures. Evidence has shown that meditation increases the release of dopamine. It can relieve stress and create feelings of inner peace.
G R A T I T U D E
Scientific research has shown gratitude affects the brain’s reward system. It correlates with the release of dopamine and serotonin. Gratitude has been directly linked to increased happiness. There are circumstances that is out of your control. You can control how you react to that circumstances. There have been many studies on a practice called the “three blessings exercise.” Every night for a week, you write down three things you are thankful for. People who complete this exercise tend to report more happiness and less depressive symptoms. Their improved mood can last up to six months.
E S S E N T I A L O I L S
All essential oils come from plants. These oils often have medicinal properties. One study found that bergamot, lavender, and lemon essential oils are particularly therapeutic. Using your sense of smell, they prompt your brain to release serotonin and dopamine.
Note: Always follow the instructions on the bottle’s label. Although essential oils are “natural,” some can be dangerous when misused. Do not let young children play with essential oils.
G O A L A C H I E V E M E N T
When we achieve one of our goals, our brain releases dopamine. The brain finds this dopamine rush very rewarding. It seeks out more dopamine by working toward another goal. Larger goals typically come with increased dopamine. However, it’s best to start with small goals to improve your chances of success. Short-term goals can add up to achieve a long-term goal (and a bigger reward). This pattern keeps a steady release of dopamine in your brain. Check out how I can help you with this.
H A P P Y M E M O R I E S
Researchers have examined the interaction between mood and memory. People reliving sad memories produced less serotonin. People dwelling on happy memories produced more serotonin.
N O V E L T Y
The brain reacts to novel experiences by releasing dopamine. You can naturally increase your dopamine by seeking out new experiences. Any kind of experience will work. You can do something simple like a new hobby or recipe. Or you can try something grand like skydiving. The less familiar you are with the activity, the more likely your brain will reward you with dopamine.
T H E R A P Y
Research indicates if you change your mood, you can affect serotonin synthesis in your brain. This implies mood and serotonin synthesis have a mutual influence on each other. Psychotherapy often helps people improve their mood. It is possible therapy can help raise one’s serotonin levels as well.
Which one of the above will you start implementing in your life?