Is happiness mainly affected by our personal experiences, actions and satisfaction from those or by chemical processes in our body? Yes, today we will talk about the neurochemical of happiness – serotonin.
The neurotransmitter which is produced in the brain, where it carries its primary function of transmitting impulses between nerve cells, is believed to strongly influence our mood.
Numerous researches find a link between serotonin imbalance and mood swinging like depression, anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even excess anger.
And not surprisingly, most of the conventional pharma antidepressant medicines work by boosting serotonin levels. But the trap is that there are no stable proofs whether lower levels of serotonin trigger depression or, on the contrary, that depression causes serotonin levels to drop. And to make it even harder, a way to measure the exact level of serotonin in a living brain does not exist.
Though there are numerous natural ways to fight depression and stimulate serotonin production which we all can go for. Starting from a vacation at a sunny place with the sun light helping our bodies synthesise vitamin D, which activates the genes that release serotonin to regular exercising, a happy balanced diet (some serotonin-rich foods are kiwis, pineapples, tomatoes and walnuts), and adequate supply of vitamin B-6.
The calming chemical was discovered in the 1860s as a blood clotting substance, to get its name in only the late 1940s, by Maurice Rapport, a biochemist who was assigned a project to isolate the serum. Interestingly, the discovery happened by a chance – a test tube was left in a cold room during Rapport’s holiday. The isolated crystals’ discovery was named in 1948, in the September issue of Medicine: “The general behaviour of the crystalline substance is suggestive of its homogeneity. We would like provisionally to name it serotonin, which indicates that its source is serum and its activity is one of causing constriction.” No imagination was used here, typically for a biochemist, the name derived from “serum” and “tonic”.
Serotonin discovery was 10 years behind that of LSD, firstly syntesised in 1938, but exactly the connection between serotonin levels in the brain and mental illness served as a major catalyst for the revolution in neuroscience and antidepressants’ boom.
1974, Michael Charles Gerald, Pharmacology: “There is a large body of evidence that links LSD’s actions to its effects at serotonin receptor sites in the central nervous system.”
There are scientifically backed up evidences that there is a huge difference in how men and women react to a reduction in serotonin and biochemical explanations why women are more prone to mood disorders and how female hormones interact with serotonin to cause some symptoms to occur or worsen during the premenstrual time or around the time of menopause. Men have to be tolerant and understand that their loved women are affected by mood swinging at certain periods of time or at least can comfortably blame a bad character or unhappiness on a biochemical imbalance.