Or Why Serotonin Should Be Your New Best Friend
Written by Tamara Lackey for All In One Life on July 4th 2013
Whoever your best friend is, they should feel highly threatened by your serotonin – because serotonin should be your best friend.
Serotonin is a neuro transmitter, a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses across nerve cells or neurons. And it plays a HUGE part in the regulation of mood and anxiety. In fact, changes in your serotonin can severely effect your mood. Or, your desire to or not to do things. Or your outlook on how appealing or unappealing an activity or food or interaction is.
Serotonin is the molecule of will power, of delaying gratification.
Decreased serotonin activity can lead to an inability to create and act on well-formed plans. You may decide that you want to eat well and exercise daily, but if you don’t FEEL like it, if you have decreased seretonin activity, then you probably won’t follow through.
Low serotonin can also lead to fatigue, sleeping problems, focus issues, and excess cravings for sweets and carbohydrates. It can mean you feel a little down or anxious, or irritable. One other major role of serotonin, as it relates to food intake? Serotonin is linked to satiation. If our serotonin levels our low, our brain doesn’t get the message that we are full.
For most people, low sertonin levels do not feel good, and certainly do not help you to make healthier choices.
So, how can you naturally boost it?
1. Exercise. It’s largely agreed upon that optimal results can be achieved in at least 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Even just a 10 minute walk outside can make you feel better for the next two hours.
2. Diet. The animo acid tryptophan has a direct influence on the production of sertonin. We hear a lot about tryptophan right around thanksgiving – because it is present in protein-rich foods, like turkey. It’s also quite present in whole grains like quinoa and brown rice – AND beans, legumes, pumpkin, nuts, sunflower, sesame seeds and root vegetables. And protein mixed with carbs actually is the best combination for this, so a protein like beans mixed with a carbohydrates, like brown rice, would make for quite the serotoinin-friendly meal.
2. Avoid stress. Okay, it’s nearly impossible to avoid stress if you’re living life. So, instead, make an effort to avoid prolonged physical or emotional stress. They produce adrenaline and cortisol, both of which interfere with serotonin. Actively doing activites that decrease stress help. For example, getting massages can increase serotonin by 28%. Meditation is another a serotonin booster.
3. Spend time in natural spaces. A walk in the woods, a quiet moment in the park, creating more opportunities to find yourself in nature can boost seretonin.
4. Practice a regular sleep cycle. Sleep is a pre-requisite for production of many mood-friendly chemicals. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not getting enough time to replenish good mood chemicals.
5. Expose yourself to natural sunlight or light therapy sessions. Sunlight or bright full-spectrum light on your skin can significantly improve your mood. It’s one of the main forms of treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a mild form of depression some people experience during the winter months when there is little sunlight. But more and more people are buying therapy lights just to keep their moods up every day. These are bright lights you can use indoors that have the same healing effect as sunlight does. Sunlight helps reset your internal clock and increases your serotonin levels. When you feel you need comfort, sit by a window in indirect sunlight or go outdoors for thirty minutes.
7. Connect with people you care about! If you saw the documentary “Happy”, they come to the conclusion that simply feeling connected to those around us as we go through life is a huge determinant of happiness.