WORLD'S FIRST HAPPINESS CENTRE

Boosting Your Serotonin Activity

September 04, 2019

4 ways to boost your serotonin!

After I finished my Ph.D. dissertation everything felt really difficult. I wanted to throw a party for myself, but couldn't seem to plan it. I wanted a job, but couldn't get around to looking for one. I wanted to write more blog posts, but each one felt like it took forever. I wasn't quite aware of it at the time, but I do think writing a 150-page paper on 4 years of my research had maxed out my serotonin system. Subsequently I have come across a lot of research on ways to boost serotonin activity. This information would have been really useful at the time, but at least I can share it with you.

       As I described in my last post, 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. That can mean having difficulty finishing things, or feeling a little down, or getting annoyed easily, or being unable to control your impulses. If you see that in yourself, or a friend, it might mean decreased serotonin activity. In this post I'll explain 4 ways of boosting serotonin activity that don't involve a trip to your psychiatrist or buying "supplements" from some website in your spam folder.

       Now as I also explained in my last post, the phrase "low serotonin activity" can mean a number of different things. It can mean your brain is making less serotonin, or has fewer receptors for it, or those receptors just aren't grabbing on to the serotonin very well. It can also mean the serotonin that's made is broken down too soon, or that the serotonin that's squirted out into the synapse is sucked too quickly back into the neuron. Changing any one of these factors can increase (or further decrease) serotonin activity. For example, most antidepressant medications work by blocking serotonin-sucking proteins (i.e. the serotonin transporter), thereby increasing the amount of serotonin that can act on receptors.

       If your low-serotonin activity is making you feel too rushed to finish reading blog posts, I'll just spoil the surprise right here and tell you the punch-line. The four ways to boost serotonin activity are sunlight, massage, exercise, and remembering happy events. At this point feel free to return to your stressful life, or keep reading for a more in depth look.

       Now if you're really having trouble, go see a psychiatrist, and stop looking for medical advice on blogs. The symptoms I've described above may be signs of reduced serotonin activity, but they may mean more than that, or something else entirely.  Furthermore, even if low serotonin activity is the problem, the following activities may not be sufficient. You might also need something else (e.g. psychotherapy, an antidepressant, etc). That can depend, among other things, on your genetics, early childhood experiences, and current life circumstances. I will say though, that even if the following activities are not entirely sufficient, they will move you in the right direction. So without further delay, let's do some serotonin boosting.

1. Sunlight

       Human evolution occurred, for the most part, outside (or we were created outside, whichever you prefer). Back in the early Paleolithic there were fewer LED screens and fluorescent-lit cubicles. People got their light from the sun, which holds three distinct advantages over other forms of light. It has ultraviolet (UV) light, it is much brighter than standard man-made light, and occurs at the appropriate time.

       In addition to UV, the intensity of the light you're exposed to is also important. Bright light through your eyes also increases serotonin activity (so it's not necessary to get skin cancer in order to be happy). Now maybe you think the lights in your office are bright, but that's just because your eyes are good at adjusting to ambient light. In reality the intensity of light on a bright sunny day (i.e. the number of photons bouncing around) is about 100 times higher than an office. Don't believe me? Look at your lux meter, or just ask your friend who works in a sleep lab, or the one who is a camera production assistant over in Hollywood (oh, don't have one of those? Then just believe me).

       For more specific evidence, experiments in rats show the rate of production of serotonin by the brain is directly related to the prevailing duration of bright sunlight. In addition, the serotonin transporter sucks away serotonin the fastest in the Fall and Winter, and is inversely correlated with the amount of light received. Since the serotonin transporter is the thing that most antidepressants block, getting sunlight can have similar effects to antidepressants.

       Lastly, timing of the light is also important. You may notice that the sun is only out during the day. Thus, you want to make sure you expose yourself (not in a dirty way) to bright light in daytime, and not at night. Bright lights at night block the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, and melatonin is essential for a good night's sleep.  

2. Massage

       Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of massage in boosting serotonin. It's not clear to me whether it is massage in particular, or simply physical human contact, but I'm trying to get my girlfriend to give me more massages, so let's focus on that.

       One study on massage was carried out on depressed pregnant women. Depression in mothers is particularly concerning, because their depression can affect the baby's activity of various neurotransmitters, including serotonin. The women received massages twice a week from their partners for four months, and their serotonin levels increased by 30%. If you're pregnant, feel free to use that tidbit to score some massages from your partner.

       Another study looked at massage on babies of depressed mothers. They massaged 1-3 month old infants twice a week for 15 minutes for 6 weeks. The infants' serotonin jumped 34%. Other studies have shown that massage helps migraine sufferers to boost their serotonin and reduce their headaches. In addition, women suffering from breast cancer also saw large serotonin increases from massage. 

       Massage increases serotonin, which will likely improve your mood - a happy ending if you will.

       In numerous studies exercise has been shown to increase both serotonin production and release. In particular, aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are the most likely to boost serotonin. However, yoga works too (for more neurobiological effects of yoga check out my earlier post).

       Interestingly, if you try to do too much exercise, or feel forced into doing it, it may not have the right effect. Recognizing that you are choosing to exercise changes it's neurochemical effect. That may be a result of your ancient instincts - the difference between running because you're hunting something, and running because it's hunting you.

       Make exercise an essential part of your routine. The biggest problem with exercise is that when people don't feel like doing it, they don't do it. But sometimes the reason they don't feel like doing it is because their serotonin activity is low, and they'd rather pig out on chips or watch TV. So it's important to go against what you're feeling at the moment, and remind yourself of what's important to you.

4. Remembering Happy Events

       This tip may seem the hokiest of all, but is the simplest. All you need to do is remember positive events that have happened in your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region just behind the prefrontal cortex that controls attention. The same study that found this also showed that remembering sad events decreased serotonin production in the anterior cingulate. Thus, remembering positive events has a two-fold effect: it directly increases serotonin, and also keeps you from thinking about negative events.

Yes, sometimes when you're feeling crappy it's hard to focus on, or even remember, happier times. This is a phenomenon known as "state dependent recall." In fact, one of the biggest problems in major depression is that people can't recall being happy, and only remember being depressed. If you're having difficulty remembering happy events, then talk to an old friend, or look at photographs, or read your diary (or someone else's).

       In conclusion, engaging in all of these activities will give a boost to your sagging serotonin system. Unfortunately, the people who probably need it most couldn't even finish reading this article. Or they never even made it to this blog in the first place. So, congratulations! If you're reading this, your serotonin system isn't doing terribly. Even so, you could probably benefit from sunlight, massage, exercise, and remembering happy events. If nothing else, please pass along the info to someone who could use it.

For help applying practical neuroscience to your own life, please visit alexkorbphd.com and sign up for neuroscience-based personal coaching.

 If you liked this article then check out my new book on the neuroscience of depression:The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

Source: Alex Korb

Benefits of Serotonin

September 03, 2019

Not a lot of people have a clear understanding of what exactly Serotonin is and what the main benefits are; so we thought we would shed some light on this topic! Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (although some believe it is a hormone) and sends signals between the nerves, regulating their intensity. It is made from the essential amino acid- tryptophan and plays an integral part in our wellbeing. 

In simple terms, it is the chemical that keeps us happy :D. 

 

So what are the benefits of the production of Serotonin other than helping with our happiness? Here goes…

-      Regulates bowel function and movements

-      Stimulates parts of our brain that control our sleep patterns

-      Helps regulate our mood and social behaviour

-      Aids digestion and appetite (therefore helps with our weight management)

-      Regulate anxiety and reduce depression

-      Heal wounds by causing tiny arteries to narrow, helping form blood clots 

-      Helps increase our memory 

-      Mood stabiliser

 

Ultimately it regulates our moods and promotes happiness from within.

 

So, how do we naturally boost our levels of Serotonin? We have you covered!

 

1-   Sunshine: Have you noticed the difference in your mood during Winter and Summer? When our bodies are exposed to natural light, it helps produce Serotonin and therefore helps stabilise our mood and promotes happiness. That winter escape to a warmer climate is needed! Get that leave approved and say hello to the warmer weather!

2-   Exercise: there’s nothing better than that post-exercise feeling when the endorphins hit, you feel energised and ready to kick start your day! Exercise is a natural boost and helps promote not only dopamine but Serotonin too. So despite it being tempting to hit that snooze alarm, just think about how good you will feel afterwards. 

3-   Diet: we’ve heard it all before, ‘you are what you eat’. When you consume foods that are high in tryptophan it can help produce Serotonin and ultimately increase your happiness levels! Think bananas, nuts, seeds, tofu, and pineapple.

4-   Meditation: before you roll your eyes and use the excuse that you do not have time, hear us out. You do not need to sit and meditate for hours. A quick 5-10 minute meditation can be enough to kick start your morning and get the boost you need. It can help alleviate stress, calm down our mind and make us come back to a place of mindfulness. It can promote a positive outlook on life which ultimately boosts Serotonin levels. Hello happiness!  

 

So now you can understand why we are obsessed with Serotonin and the benefits it has on our bodies! 

Top 9 things for a sustainable 2019

August 30, 2019

Unfortunately if we continue living the way we do as a society and not showing accountability for our actions, we will not have a planet to look after! By changing a few of our daily routines and adding small practices into our lives, we can change the direction we are headed and preserve our environment for future generations to enjoy. Here are our top 9 things to do for a sustainable 2019.  

 

1-    Farmers Market

It’s no secret that the produce you get from local farmers markets is one of the freshest and highest qualities you can get. You cannot beat the crunch when you bite into a juicy pear or the sweetness (with a hint of tang) when you pop a blueberry in your mouth. Supporting our local farmers and buying produce when it’s in season, helps contribute to a healthier and sustainable environment. Less transportation is needed, less refrigeration is needed and farmers can continue to grow their produce and make an income in order to sustain their business and not be pushed out. 

 

2-    Delivered organic box    

What better combination than home delivery and fresh organic produce? Match made in heaven we say! Getting your organic fruit and veg delivered supports our organic farmers and ensures they can continue with their protocols to remove chemicals and pesticides to ensure your body is thriving! These protocols support our environment as they remove pest control and toxic chemicals.

  

3-    Beeswax wraps & vegan 

Most of us are aware of the damage’s plastic has not only on the environment but to our bodies! It is hard to break down and is not eco-friendly. Whether you are vegan or not, Wax wraps are the perfect substitute for plastic. They eliminate the need to wrap your food in petrochemicals (that traditional cling wrap has), are reusable, reduces food wastage and can be broken down! With the choice of both Beeswax wraps or Vegan Wax Wraps, it ensures that everyone is catered for and can reduce their footprint in some way!      

 

4-    Reusable Bags

With the change in supermarkets now making you pay per plastic bag; it’s no wonder people are searching for alternatives! As plastic is causing significant damage to our environment, it is up to us to start taking ownership and limiting our use. Why not get your hands on reusable grocery bags that you can take with you and reduce your environmental footprint! 

 

5-    Keep cup

Does your morning routine include a visit to your local café to get your daily caffeine hit? Instead of using their cups, why not bring your own keep cup? Here you can reuse it every day and help reduce your waste which therefore benefits our environment and helps preserve it for future generations! Bonus- most cafes offer a discount if you BYO your own cup! 

 

6-    Metal Straws

Most plastic straws are non-bio-degradable. For every plastic straw we use, it increases the chances of another animal being harmed (have you seen the video of the turtle getting a plastic straw up its nose? Warning it will break your heart). Due to the lightness of these straws, they can easily be blown away into our ocean- resulting in it being the 7th most collected material on our beaches! To reduce this, why not invest in a metal straw which can be easily washed and reused. 

 

7-   Preserve the harvest

Brought too much fruit or veg one week? Looking like it’s going to go off before you have the chance to consume it all? Why not look at how you can preserve this produce instead of throwing it out. Our favourites are dehydrating, freezing or evening preserving in glass jars for later consumption. Want to get more creative? Try preserving your own jam! 

 

8-   Compost food waste

It is easy to put our food scraps in the bins. But why not use this waste and make it into something that will benefit our environment. Food waste compost is a perfect solution to using up waste scraps and can help the growth of our home gardens! This not only decreases your carbon footprint, but reduces your landfill use and can get you in the garden which can benefit not only your mind but overall wellbeing! Little weekend project- yes please!

 

9-   Eat less processed and packaged foods

We unfortunately have become a society that loves convenience. This has resulted in the increased consumption of packaged and processed foods- which has ultimately decreased our overall health. Why not reduce your intake of these foods and start eating wholefoods that come straight from the market and will leave you feeling more vibrant! The closer the food is to its natural state, the better it is for us. Try eating more fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks instead of relying on packaged and processed foods. Watch the change in your body and feel it thrive from within! 

About Us

At Serotonin in Melbourne, we provide a sanctuary to escape from our fast-paced lives. As optimal health requires a holistic approach, Serotonin integrates both a nourishing Eatery, an Exercise Centre and has an Education platform. Our ethos is based around eating a plant-based diet to ensure the body, mind and earth all function at their best.