What if I told you that you had a magical, happiness chemical at your disposal. It’s free. Naturally occurring inside your body, and easily runs off of minimal pep. And the best news… no products required.
S E R O T O N I N
First is serotonin and what causes it to be low? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (some say hormone) that controls your body’s function to sleep, regulate mood and agression.
•Stress- prolonged periods of stress (especially a traumatic event) . Think about running out of the house with a hot cup of coffee (home being your body in a normal state, coffee being your happy hormones). I don’t want to stress you out by giving a stressful example… but really, most of our lives are not constructed well for rest and self care.
•Nutrition- Serotonin isn’t just produced in the brain, it’s also produced in our stomach (your second brain). If you’re not eating good foods and digesting well, your serotonin production is off track.
•Nerve Damage- “You’re getting on my last nerve!” said the Momma so stressed out. Nerve damage isn’t just caused by stress, but also by toxic substances you might come into contact with daily: fragrances in your home/car/skin care, drugs, pesticides on food and used in gardening. Think about what you’re putting on your body (largest organ) and breathing in, it could be damaging the nerve cells that make neurotransmitters like serotonin. You’ll hear this labeled as a carcinogen or endocrine disruptor (not on the product label, of course. that would be too easy!) Check out Environmental Working Group to see where your products stand.
•Depression- been a little or a lottle SAD this season? Even if you don’t suffer from depression symptoms seasonally or all the time, your serotonin could still be low. But do know that if you find your moods fluctuating beyond your control or have trouble getting out of bed during the day, you could have low serotonin.
•Sleep- Insomnia or just trouble getting to sleep can be from lack of serotonin production throughout the day. Have a routine and goal every night to get in bed. Wash face. Brush teeth. Apply oils. Go potty. Turn off tv. Sleep by (10? 11? 8?) Whatever you need, depending on when you get up. Just like babies need a routine, you still need to baby your body and get good sleep.
•Negative Thoughts- say this over and over, “… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 The renewing of your mind is a consistent, constant process. Give yourself grace in negative times and make it a point to lay this scripture foundation on your heart.
•Exercise- I might be the last person to tell you how to work out. So, I won’t. Momercise is my workout of choice. Daily movement. What feels good. Set a goal, then mini goals to get there. Want to run? How many days? Mark it on the calendar. Set out your clothes and shoes the night before. Set your alarm. Do it.
•Sunshine- This past winter, I needed a heavy dose of sunshine, literally. For that reason, I will recommend only one product. Vitamin D. I take 10,000 IU a day in a capsule. Also, diffusing citrus oils or taking cod liver oil is helpful. Since it’s spring now, get outside! Wear a hat for that cool wind, get your hands in the dirt pulling weeds and planting. Take a gentle walk in the sunshine. You will see a difference! Even if you’re just sitting on your front porch steps letting the sun hit your face.
•Eat Well- Nutrition is key. I talked about the neurotransmitters of Serotonin being found in the stomach. If you’re eating a lot of what I call “heavy foods” (breads, fast food), and foods containing tryptophan (turkey meat and milk) will decrease serotonin production. Consider how many fruits and veggies you get into your diet daily. Add in one or two more per meal and see how you feel! And as always, drink at least 1/2 your body weight in oz of water per day.
•Breathing- Prayer. Meditation. Yoga. Taking 5 minutes, three times a day to sit without thoughts, emptying your mind, and taking in deep breaths is helpful! Delivering oxygen to your brain and cleaning your blood while detoxifying. One of serotonin’s functions is to help control breathing. You are teaching your body what it feels like to rest and allow it to work these many functions. Serotonin is purposefully produced and you will find yourself more peaceful after practicing just a few times a day.
I did find this article in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience about increasing serotonin without drugs. For our family, we treat the root cause, always, first before moving onto a drug. Mostly, medications aren’t needed as our bodies are miraculously made to heal and produce what’s needed under the right circumstances.
Do these tips seem helpful? What can you start today to help increase the magical, happy chemical?