Intro to Brain – Serotonin 101

SEROTONIN, is another neurotransmitter that is integral for some of the most intense and positive emotions we feel in our daily lives.

Before we jump into the technical side of Serotonin, I want to share some of the benefits that it has in your life and how it indirectly impacts your success. Also, how Serotonin is Different than Dopamine.

Appropriate levels of Serotonin  promotes the feeling of comfort, contentment and well-being. It has also been called a “happy” neurotransmitter.The  deficiencies in serotonin can lead to depression and fear.

Feeling contentment and sense of well-being is responsible for continuous progression. If we lack contentment and sense of well-being in our daily lives then we opt to live daily on instant gratification lifestyle or things that provide thrill and excitement in the moment.

Even though instant gratification is healthy for us in the moment, it tends to create addictive behaviours which could eventually lead to habits that can be destructive for our long term growth and well-being.


For example If we start eating 2 sweets  per day and each time we eat them we get a combination of thrill, benefit and exhilaration for that specific task at that moment (not in the future but at that very moment). This is also simplified to instant gratification that makes individuals become addicted to substances or certain destructive habits.

Because the combination of thrill, benefit and exhilaration in the moment sends a wave of Dopamine in our brain telling us that we are happy and excited in the moment, which is not necessarily bad. But If we repeat this action every single day eventually 2 sweets or the reward will become the new baseline and we will not feel the same feeling of happiness that we used to. Now we will have to  increase the stimulus or in this case those sweets in order for us to achieve the same level of excitement or happiness we felt with the 2 sweets initially.

That’s where we lack the feeling of contentment and get busy in the chase of that emotion that we felt the first time.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that rewards us when there is slow progression and it keeps us motivated though the journey as opposed to seeking the reward now and abandoning the path of growth and slow progress.


Now let’s talk about science and history of Serotonin.

Serotonin was first discovered by Vittorio Erspamer in Rome in 1935. But it was not isolated and named until 1948 by Maurice M. Rapport, Arda Green, and Irvine Page of the Cleveland Clinic.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter released by neurons in the brain. It’s made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is a component of protein that we consume in our daily routine.  Tryptophan can be found in foods like Brown rice, Turkey and Chicken.

The majority of Serotonin in humans is present in the enterochromaffin cells of the digestive tract, where it is involved in regulating movement of the gut.


Effects of Serotonin

A “feel-good” hormone, serotonin helps people to feel relaxed and content. According to Macalester College. Low serotonin levels are linked to anxiety and depression.

Like many hormones and brain chemicals, serotonin functions best when it’s at optimal concentrations. Normal levels of the chemical promote relaxation, but be cautious that extra Serotonin won’t necessarily increase feelings of well being–it may just make the individual feel sleepy.

But one of the 2010 studies on excess serotonin viewed sleepiness as One of the benefits of excess serotonin. As sleepiness, which is not necessarily a benefit at the wrong time of day, is certainly welcome at night.


This study in the scientific journal “Sleep” notes that if the brain’s serotonin transporters are misshapen, patients experience insomnia. Further, individuals who have difficulty sleeping have long been advised to try a glass of warm milk before bed. Milk, like many sources of protein, contains the amino acid tryptophan, which signals the brain to make more serotonin and which may produce feelings of sleepiness. There is also some speculation that the familiar “Thanksgiving Day coma,” wherein people feel tired after a big meal, may be due at least in part to high levels of tryptophan found in turkey meat.


Serotonin receptors are also being considered as targets for drugs useful to treat psychosis and cognitive impairment in schizophrenia according to the research conducted by  H. Y. Meltzer, B. W. Massey and M. Horiguchi.

The conclusion of their research was and  quote “Multiple 5-HT receptors contribute to effective treatments to reverse adverse effects of NMDA-RA which model psychosis and cognitive impairment.”


How do you know if you have low levels of Serotonin?

Some of the symptoms of low Serotonin are:

  • Anger
  • Carbohydrate cravings and binge eating
  • Digestive disorders
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Insomnia
  • Joylessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Migraines
  • Poor cognitive function

There are also Serotonin blood test that you can request from your Licensed Physician or family doctor. And they can discuss potential treatments if needed.


Why should Entrepreneurs, Creatives and Athletes care about Serotonin.

Entrepreneurs, Creatives and Athletes ideally deal with high amounts of stress. Which can eventually result to low levels of Serotonin, which can adversely impact your performance and can even eventually make you give up on your goal, aspirations and dreams. Especially if you experienced combination of stress and loss or poor performance at the same time.

Entrepreneurs, Creatives and Athletes success is not in the moment but is a slow process or journey. Sometimes they are even called futuristic when it come to planning their lifestyles and their goals. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk & Richard Branson are all Creatives and Entrepreneurs who are considered futurists.


How to:

The chemical 5-hydroxytryptophan, commonly called 5-HTP, is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. 5HTP converts in the body to a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which passes signals between brain cells.

According to the University of Maryland, 5HTP’s ability to raise serotonin levels means it may be helpful for certain health conditions. 5HTP supplements are available over the counter but should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider.




“Biochemistry”; Reginald Garrett, Ph.D. and Charles Grisham, Ph.D.; 2007

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