Mental health is one of the most pressing problems in the business world. Working from home and a lack of real social interactions add to the existing pressure and stress that come with working in a corporate environment.
This post is about the “happy chemical” Serotonin.
More specifically how to increase levels of serotonin in a work-related context to avoid depression symptoms and increase one’s wellbeing.
Serotonin, formally named 50-hydroxytryptamine, is mainly found in the brain, bowels and blood platelets, and is used to transmit messages between nerve cells. It helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and plays a big role in appetite, emotions, motor, cognitive and automatic functions.
Maintaining normal/high levels of serotonin helps:
- Reduce depression
- Regulate anxiety
- Increase sense of happiness
- Make you calmer
- Make you more focused at work
- Stabilize mood swings.
Here are some habits that you can integrate into your workday to provide a natural boost in serotonin:
1. Work outside (summer) or move your office to a sunny room
Exposure to bright light has been shown to be a great remedy to stabilize serotonin production. Thus, try to work in an environment where you get direct sunlight.
If you can’t, take walk breaks and go outside for 15-30 minutes when it’s sunny. Taking a forced break will also benefit your cognitive capabilities at work and increase focus.
2. Exercise often for short periods of time
Having a busy schedule means most of us don’t have 2 hours per day to spend working out, even 1 hour is hard for people with a busy schedule.
However, if you can fit a small 15 to 20-minute exercise routine often into your workweek, the results will be astonishing. First of all, there’s a clear correlation between exercise and antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.
But most importantly, the frequency will help regulate serotonin production and reduce swings, making your serotonin levels normal and stable.
3. A serotonin-oriented diet
High-protein foods like cheese, turkey, eggs, soy products, tofu and salmon are said to contain tryptophan, amino acid and precursor to serotonin production.
However, for the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, aka cause serotonin production, it is best to combine high-protein foods with carbohydrates like fruits, nuts, bread or milk.
4. Meditation and “do nothing” breaks
Meditating can help relieve stress and promote a positive outlook on life, which can greatly boost serotonin levels.
But… not everyone enjoys or knows how to meditate.
Thus, another trick that I personally find useful and have shared in the past is “do nothing” breaks. What I mean is planning and forcing yourself to take 15-30 min break(s) in your day to do nothing and reflect on your work. No social, distractions or technology.
Your boss may be reluctant, but studies have shown that taking breaks to reflect without being in contact with technology drastically improves focus and performance. It also happens to boost serotonin levels ;)
I hope this was helpful to some of you who, like me, or struggling to prioritize their wellbeing at work.
If you found this useful, please like and share the post for others to benefit from the tips shared today!
Other posts on wellbeing
Cheers, Fred ✌️
Source: Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Healthline.com (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/)