Serotonin, the Happiness Holy Grail

Happiness has been an elusive goal ever since the beginning of humanity, but the idea that we can find happiness inside ourselves may be based on scientific fact. Serotonin is a chemical in our brains that strongly affects our mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, schizophrenia, and certain mental disorders, while normal and higher levels improve your mood and make you more relaxed. Many easy daily habits can increase your serotonin levels- take happiness into your own hands!

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Serotonin Facts

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps transmit signals from one area of the brain to another

Most of our brain cells are influenced by serotonin; brain cells related to sleep, appetite, mood, sexual desire and function, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior

Although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, and it performs its primary functions in the brain, nearly all of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood

Low levels of serotonin are also associated with other conditions such as anger, depression and anxiety

People who work rotating shifts have been found to have significantly lower levels of serotonin


Age

Aging brings about hormonal changes.

The brain’s serotonin level decreases with age, as does bone mass.

People with high bone mass often have circulating serotonin levels as much as 50% higher than normal (without any adverse effects).

Serotonin may play a key role in regulating bone formation, opening the possibility of novel treatments for diseases such as osteoporosis.

Shift Work
The level of serotonin in your body affects your behavior and mood. A few things you can do to increase your serotonin levels are:
– Do things that make you feel good; meditative activities raise serotonin levels; prayer, meditation, spend time with nature, cuddle up with loved ones
– Try relaxing activities such as hobbies or crafts
– Engage in exercise that slightly elevates your heart rate; 30 minutes of non-aerobic exercise most days of the week will increase your serotonin level
– Get out in the sun; without the exposure to adequate natural light your serotonin levels will be lower.
-Take low activity, high relaxation vacations
– Add healthy foods such as fish and poultry, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to your diet
-Significantly decrease sugars and simple carbohydrates

If, after trying these, and practicing good sleep habits, you still feel depressed, anxious, and angry and still sleep deprived, talk with your health professional about other options such as selective serotonin inhibitors (SSRIs, anti-depr,essants) or sleep disorder screening

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