Serotonin is my friend. As is acetylcholine (which, if I remember right from The Introvert Advantage is the neurotransmitter that introverts use a lot more of). All those neurotransmitters that let me feel so deeply and variably, alternatively fascinate and frustrate me.
I enjoy learning about the neurotransmitters, how our brains regulate them, how the things we do (as well as things done to us) affect them.
If you want more dopamine, all you have to do is play a computer game for several hours. You’ll feel great the whole time (though, often, pretty miserable afterwards when you come down off that dopamine high.)
If you want more endorphins, some of your options are to (a) get hurt, (b) go running, which to me feels like only a slight variation of option “a” or (c) I just learned last night, keep a lot of change happening in your life. Apparently, the brain processes change in the exact same place and way as it does pain. For some people, change would be a relatively pain-free way to get the same endorphin rush without the pain. For others, like the ISFJ that I am, change is, well, extremely difficult and I’d be hard pressed to think it’s worth it for the endorphin rush in exchange. (This new information I heard makes sense in connection with Lingamish’s post on the new nomads and how nomadism can increase productivity and also become a type of addiction).
And serotonin, we all know, can be helped along by various types of anti-depressants, most commonly these days, by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs). But those come with their own set of side effects and complications, which may or may not seem worth it to any given person.
However, I was happily surprised this past weekend to discover a rather nonconventional and quite charming (literally) source of neurotransmitters:
While I was in research mode, I was also happy (ha, I think research gets some of my happy neurotransmitters going) to discover the contribution theobromine, a molecule, which is found in chocolate, makes towards feeling good.
Here’s the explanation from Think Geek, the website which sells the above theobromide-in-chocolate t-shirt:
Caffeine is our favorite stimulant. It is easy to get and comes in many forms. But did you know that Caffeine has a sexy younger cousin. Her name is Theobromine, and she’s the tasty little number who puts your mind in a happy place while you are eating chocolate. Molecularly similar to caffeine, but with just enough differences to make her a much smoother date, Theobromine is slower to burn out of your system and induces gentle, sensual stimulation to your muscular and cardiovascular systems.
Although I don’t understand all the technicalities, the Wikipedia (reliable resource that it is 🙂 )article on theobromine, filled in a few more gaps in my knowledge as they explained that this molecule does something to stimulate serotonin.
Something else I learned is that:
theobromine has an antitussive (cough-reducing) effect superior to codeine by suppressing vagus nerve activity. In the study, theobromine significantly increased the capsaicin concentration required to induce coughs when compared with a placebo. Additionally, theobromine is helpful in treating asthma since it relaxes the smooth muscles, including the ones found in the bronchi.
And it sure is a lot cheaper than the above jewelry. Still, if I had enough money and felt comfortable spending it on indulgences like jewelry, my Made With Molecules design of choice would be the endorphin necklace:
That is incredibly and amazingly beautiful. Chocolate might make me feel good, but I look at that endorphin necklace and think two things (besides how beautiful it is, but I experience that as more of a feeling than a thought):
(1) how unbelievably creative the designer of the jewelry (a molecular biophysicist turned artist named Raven Hanna) is, and
(2) how amazing the Designer of the real-thing-endorphins is. I mean, that’s just one of the neurotransmitters, and it is so incredibly complex and beautiful and fascinating AND, wow, does it come in handy when I’m hurting.
Since $640 is hard for me to come by, however, I’m thinking I’ll just have to stick with one of these next time I’m feeling the need for a neurotransmitter boost:
(Perhaps I could set up a “contribute” button like Lingamish has on his site, only mine could be for chocolate instead of cash! )