Serotonin – The Brain Basis for Feeling Good

Random acts of kindness make everyone happy! – CE


The other day I was having a meeting over a coffee in the city  My car was parked directly outside the venue where I was having coffee and I had allowed enough money it the parking meter to cover the time of my meeting.  I was preparing to leave when all of a sudden a young man sitting at the window said to me, “Is that your car?”  I looked over and saw a parking officer was just starting to write out a parking ticket for my car.  I grabbed my bag, rushed a quick good bye to my colleague, hastily said thank you to the young man who had alerted me and raced outside to the parking officer to “try” and stop him from proceeding with the ticket.  Luckily for me, the parking officer stopped writing the ticket once I explained what had happened and that I was about 2 minutes over time.  He then moved on to the next cars to check them.


With a big sigh of relieve I relaxed and began to say a proper goodbye to my colleague and a big thank you to the young man, when I looked up and the parking officer was beginning to write a ticket for the car two spaces up from me.  I ran the scenario over in my head.  Will I or won’t I do something to stop the next person who’s meter had expired from getting a ticket.  “I will” won, and so I quickly grabbed my bag and raced up and asked the parking officer if I could put some money into the meter so that person wouldn’t get booked.  To my astonishment he said yes and so I put the money into the meter and began to walk back to my car.  The owner of the car walked out of the shop, saw what was happening and gave me a big thank you, with obvious relief and gratitude.  A cascade of helping strangers had left all of as grateful and  feeling good (even the parking officer I suspect!).


As you know, depression is one of the most prevalent illnesses of our time, and research clearly indicates that depressed or melancholy people have lower levels of Serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter chemical in the brain.


There has also been a lot of research into how we can increase our Serotonin levels. One of the interesting results from the research is the effect of random acts of kindness on our Serotonin levels.  It shows that our Serotonin levels go up when we are the “giver” of an act of kindness which makes us feel good.  What is even more interesting is that this research also shows that the Serotonin levels in the “receiver” of the acts of kindness also go up, making them feel good.  The truly amazing part of this research is that there is also an “observer effect”, where the person observing and noticing other people giving or receiving kindness and consideration has their own Serotonin level increase, and so they feel good too!


Serotonin is definitely the way to go to make us feel good and to maintain a balanced wellbeing as we navigate the business of life. There are lots of ways that we can raise our Serotonin levels.  Some of the ways I like to maintain high levels of Serotonin and therefore stay happy are:


  • Good quality sleep – I go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at 5.30 every morning after 7-8 hours sleep. Having a regular sleep/wake cycle and waking up at the same time every morning is really important in for Serotonin levels.
  • Get some sunlight first thing in the morning to activate the Serotonin switch to stimulate Serotonin production (along with some Vitamin D). Walk outside for a few minutes every morning without sunglasses (the sun needs to hit your retina in your eyes).
  • Reduce sugar, cigarettes. Also reduce artificial light from TV screens or computer screens late at night as these reduce Melatonin production which affects sleep and thus affects the Melatonin/Serotonin function
  • Exercise regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes 3 times a week. I love bike riding, skiing, yoga and Pilates and walking.
  • Eat foods high in tryptophan protein which reduces our urge to overeat, and increase Serotonin levels. These foods include turkey, chicken, beef, brown rice, nuts, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, and some fruit and vegetables.
  • Eat dark chocolate (in moderation). This contain antioxidants as well as a serotonin stimulant
  • Relax – take time to indulge in calming, meditative activities such as taking a bath, reading, having a massage, hugging (touch is really important to stimulate serotonin and dopamine in the brain), listening to relaxing music, petting an animal such as a dog or cat.
  • Have fun! – take time to be spontaneous, spend time with your favourite people, laugh a lot, watch a funny movie, and don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Playfulness is a great way to stimulate Serotonin and feel goodI hope these ideas be useful for you and reinforce the importance of being kind to your-self. When we are kind to ourselves we have more energy and time to be kind to other people and so make a difference for them too! These ideas are also the basis for well-being and longevity – so it’s a win / win outcome!

Book Review

Book – The Success Principles

Author – Jack Canfield

Publisher – Element Publishing, London. 2005



Rating –


 If a man for whatever reason has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself – Jacques-Yves Cousteau


Last month I listed some of the most informative and inspirational books I have read over the past few years. This book, The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, has been a book that I have picked up and reread time and time again.  It is a definitive guide to get from where we are to where we want to be – whatever we define that to be. It contains countless timeless principles used by successful people throughout history, including the author, all of which can be applied in our own lives with great success.


The book describes some of the most successful principles and techniques for personal development and empowerment. It begins with the fundamentals of success, discussing ideas such as:

  • Taking 100% responsibility for your life
  • Being clear about why you are here
  • Deciding on what you want in life
  • Believing things are possible
  • Believing in yourself
  • Setting goals and mini-steps
  • Acting as if
  • Taking action
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway
  • Practice persistence
  • Committing to constant improvement


Canfield goes on to discuss concepts such as thinking positively, choosing who you spend your time with, keeping your eye on the goals, and self discipline.  He agrees with Thomas Edison that “Success is about 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.


Success is about self mastery, and also about having a success team. As Helen Keller said – “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.  Having supportive people around us enables us to stay focused on our core genius, manage our time, delegate and when necessary, say no!.  Some really great ideas include getting a personal coach, creating a mastermind group for mutual support, and spending time in self reflection, learning to trust and listen to our inner guide and intuition.  He also touches on mastering relationships and money as part of holistic success.


The book contains a plethora of personal stories and anecdotes that reinforce the key messages of the book. It is fast moving, easy to read, interesting and practical. If we applied even half of the ideas contained in the book we would be living bigger than we could have imagined.  As Edison said…


If we did all of the things we are capable of we would literally astound ourselves

– Thomas Edison


Posted in On Running Your Brain