We tend to think of feeling angry as being caused by rude drivers, people we don't like, or 100 degree temperatures, and feeling good as being caused by kind people, successful projects, or ice cream cones.

When we're working on our emotional intelligence we work on our self-talk and attributional style (optimism), our communication skills, and empathy, but it's good to remember that we also live in a body and our body is made up of chemicals.

It is believed that our feelings are regulated by neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin is most often called the "feel good" neurotransmitter. Here are some things to know about this important mood regulator.

This is informational and not a prescription. Before you take any vitamin, pill or medication check with your own personal physician.

1.Restoring levels of serotonin in the body relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Vitamin B6 and magnesium can elevate serotonin. Source: Dr. Allan D. Lieberman, M.D., FAAEM

3. Seratonin receptors decrease significantly with age - up to 55%. Source: Research reported by Carolyn Meltzer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Radiology and Psychiatry, U. of Pittsburgh.

4. Foods high in serotonin are bananas, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, tomatoes, plums, avocados, pineapples, eggplant and walnuts. Source: Roger L. Gould, M.D., U.C.L.A.

5. Anti-depressants work with the serotonin you produce; they don't produce it. Your body produces serotonin through L-tryptophan. L-Tryptophan is present in pork, duck and turkey -- maybe this is one reason we love Thanksgiving so much!

6. Research indicates that low levels of serotonin in the brain can lead to underlying inability to handle powerful feelings which can result in impulsive acts, aggressive behaviors, poor judgment, and self-destructive tendencies.

According to the Society for Neuroscience, in experiments, monkeys with less serotonin are the ones who take daring jumps from the trees and injure themselves. Rats low in serontonin do risky things in experiments, and also accept small immediate rewards instead of waiting for a bigger prize.

7. Serotonin can also be enhanced by talk therapy and by aerobic exercise such as jogging or dance. Source: Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, author of "Prozac Backlash." (www.discover.com)

8. Touch increases serotonin during massage and decreases pain levels, improves sleep patterns, decreases fatigue, anxiety, depression, and cortisol levels in fibromyalgia patients. (And maybe in you as well?) International Journal of Neurology 84 (1996):205-217; Journal of Clinical Rheumatology 2 (1996):18-22; International Journal
of Neuroscience 86 (1996):197-205 cited @ http://www.healingartsreport.com .

9. Some physicians believe increased light can affect serotonin levels positively (source: Carol E. Watkins, M.D., psychiatrist).

Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., Chief, Section on Environmental Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health, feels that in this regard, intensity of the light is the most critical variable, not spectrum.

However full-spectrum light used in the poultry industry causes chickens to live twice as long, be calmer and less aggressive, and produce eggs 25% lower in cholesterol. Apparently, even human cholesterol levels drop when people are exposed to sunlight.

Non-full-spectrum lighting, which is often used in work places, has been shown to create hormones ACTH and cortisol in levels considered stressful.

10. In sum, part of emotional self-awareness means becoming aware of what physical factors innate to you enhance your mood - the foods you eat, the chemicals you put into your body, the exercise you get or don't get, and your surroundings.

Some people believe that being around (looking at) water (ocean, river, stream, swimming pool) enhances serotonin. One captain for the Royal Caribbean line ends each cruise saying that research has proven cruises to be beneficial to your health. There sure are a lot of people out staring at the water from horizon to horizon. It could, however, also be what they're not seeing.

Author's Bio: 

(c)Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks for your personal and professional development. Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE ezine, FREE Strengths course, specify in subject line.