Soothe Yourself: Boost Serotonin

calm joy Jul 16, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first. 

Soothe Yourself: Boost Serotonin

Nearly everyone feels better when their serotonin levels are optimal. It has such a wide array of functions, involved with everything from sleep to appetite to impulse control to sexual desire. It's the brain chemical that helps soothe you when you feel stressed or threatened, and it offers considerable protection to the brain against the damaging effects of cortisol. 

Serotonin’s broad benefits may explain why Prozac and the other SSRI’s took the world by storm in the 1990’s. It took a while for the shortcomings of these medications to become clear—problems such as agitation, numbing of emotions and sexual feelings, weight gain, insomnia, fatigue. The SSRI’s are not the cure-all that they initially appeared to be. The problem remains: millions of people are...

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Reward Yourself: Increase Dopamine

calm joy Jul 09, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.

Dopamine 101 & How to Raise It When Deficient

The effects of dopamine are more complex than those of norepinephrine, at least in regards to anxiety. In some ways, they have a similar function.

Both dopamine and norepinephrine:

  • Tend to be energizing and aid in mental focus and concentration.
  • Can aggravate anxiety when levels are way too high.

However, dopamine has some beneficial effects against anxiety.

Dopamine can:

  • Improve motivation and the experience of pleasure.
  • Enhance microcirculation in parts of the brain.3

Unless dopamine becomes really excessive, your anxiety may improve if you gently boost your dopamine levels.

How do you know if dopamine is deficient?

Low dopamine symptom include:

  • Feel apathetic and fatigued.
  • Difficulty losing weight.
  • Feel unmotivated (as with exercise).
  • Low sex drive.
  • General difficulty getting pleasure...
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L-Theanine Supplements for Anxiousness

calm Jul 04, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., You've read Part 1 of this series and the introductory article about balancing GABA and glutamate, right? If not, head to those posts first.

L-theanine Benefits

L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. But you'd have to drink a whole lot of it to get a therapeutic dose of theanine. You can get more by taking a green tea extract, but you can also take a supplement containing l-theanine alone, or in combination with other calming agents.

One of the reasons I like l-theanine is because it works on so many neurotransmitters at once: it boosts GABA and dopamine while lowering norepinephrine.10 

L-theanine and Anxiety

Researchers have found that it changes brainwaves as measured on EEG, promoting the relaxed and alert state associated with alpha-brain waves.11 That makes it unusual because it can sharpen mental focus and calm anxiety at the same time. 

L-theanine...

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Disarm Yourself: Reduce Norepinephrine

calm Jul 02, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.

With depression, there's often too little NE, but in anxiety it's frequently elevated and needs to be toned down. 

Disarm Yourself: Reduce Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine (NE) raises your level of alertness and arousal. It puts the amygdala on high alert to set off all the alarms in case danger arises.

That alarm system is good if you’re doing something like hunting or evading capture, but not helpful if you're speaking in front of a group or if you've developed panic anxiety for any reason.

How do you know if NE is excessive?

Norepinephrine is the brain’s version of epinephrine, which also goes by the name “adrenaline.” You've probably had the experience of “running on adrenaline.” It's similar to the feeling of drinking too much caffeine, which also elevates norepinephrine’s effects.

Physical...

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GABA Supplements for Anxiousness

calm Jun 27, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., You've read Part 1 of this series and the introductory article about balancing GABA and glutamate, right? If not, head to those posts first.

GABA and Anxiety | GABA Benefits

As noted in Part 1 of this series, GABA is the neurotransmitter most responsible for calming down an overactive brain... and it's available as a nutritional supplement without a prescription! It has been shown in human studies to help create a relaxed alpha-brain wave pattern, even more effectively than l-theanine (though we still like l-theanine for many reasons). It can also boost immune function in individuals subject to stress.18 

GABA Supplements 

The bad news is that when taken orally, most of it gets broken down before it gets to the brain. However, the amount that does make it can help and there are some forms more likely to be absorbed into the brain. Additionally, some of GABA’s...

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Calm Yourself: Balancing Excess Glutamate and GABA Deficiencies with Supplements & Herbs (part 2)

calm Jun 25, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

Assuming you've read Part 1 of this series, then you're ready to explore the key neurotransmitters involved in the brain’s fear circuit and also the nutritional supports that can support better brain chemistry balance. 

In this Part of the series, we'll explore how to balance GABA deficiencies and excess glutamate.  

Calm Yourself: Balance Glutamate and GABA

Your body is truly elegant in its design, and this is especially apparent with brain function. One common element of this design is a binary system in which one chemical activates a process while its partner turns it off again. That is true of the first two brain chemicals we'll discuss: Glutamate and GABA. These chemicals alone account for over 80 percent of brain activity. Glutamate accelerates brain activity—it is “excitatory.”  Its buddy GABA puts the brakes on brain activity—it is “inhibitory.” ...

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Calming Stress & Anxiousness with Diet, Supplements, & Herbs (Part 1)

calm Jun 18, 2019

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

Optimizing your brain to support mental health isn't as complex as some experts want you to believe. When you understand the basic functions of your brain, then you can more confidently, effectively, and lovingly care for it.

Brain Science 101

Neurotransmitters & Your Brain: In order to work properly, your brain must have the right balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters.

How You Balance Neurotransmitters: The only way your brain can produce neurotransmitters is for you to bring the necessary nutrients into your body.

How You Feed Your Brain: The best way to feed your brain for neurotransmitter production is through a good diet (e.g., our NMH Resilient Diet).

What About Supplements?  When used properly, however, nutritional supplements and herbal therapies may help restore brain balance, soften the damaging effects of the stress response, and prevent the recurrence of illness. 

...

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HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training for Resilience in Body and Mind

calm focus foundations joy move Jun 11, 2019

If you’re in fight or flight stress mode, your body is preparing you for brief, intense bursts of activity, followed by periods of recovery. We are wired for this, and as children we did it all the time. Consider adding occasional brief, intense bursts of movement to your weekly routine. This practice has many benefits.

The Benefits of HIIT

For instance, it can:

  • Improve weight loss, especially for that hard-to-lose abdominal weight.
  • Raise your metabolic rate for 24-48 hours, burning calories long after you’ve exercised.
  • Improve hormone levels, including cortisol, testosterone and human growth hormone.
  • Protect against adult-onset diabetes.
  • Boost energy, focus, and performance.
  • Help slow the aging process.

How to move quickly with interval training:

  1. Choose any activity you like that can be done intensely in brief spurts (20-30 seconds is enough). Good options include walking or running, biking, rowing, using a treadmill or elliptical trainer, swimming, calisthenics, or...
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Restorative Yoga Poses to Support Calm, Focus, and Sleep


By, Elly Hollenhorst

200-Hour Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher

Practice this 5-pose restorative yoga sequence to find calm, connect inwards, and refocus. This sequence can be practiced anytime; upon waking, during your lunch break, or before bed.

Props

  • A yoga mat or other comfortable surface.
  • Pillow or blanket(s).

Instructions

  1. Once you are comfortable in each posture, close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  2. Remain as still and unmoving as possible.
  3. Let gravity do the work. Do not pull your body into the positions.*
  4. Rest in each pose for 1-5 minutes resulting in a 5-25 minute practice, depending on how much time you have available. It is helpful to use a timer.

*If a posture feels painful, find another position to better suit your body's needs.

Child's Pose

Spread your knees as wide as the mat, bring your big toes to touch. Reach your arms out far in front of you. Rest your forehead on the mat. Let gravity guide your hips towards your heals.

Optional: You can bring a...

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Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue

calm joy Apr 24, 2019

By Tim Culbert, MD

Essential oils are a popular cure for... well, just about anything if you do a Google search. Research doesn't support many of those wild claims, but solid support does exist for the use of essential oils for many mental health benefits. Experiences consistent with adrenal fatigue are likely good fits for some oily-application.

So, can you heal adrenal fatigue with essential oils?

Short(ish) answer: using essential oils (aromatherapy) may offer a quick energy and mood boost that can then help support you as you take additional actions that offer more lasting effects.

Considering how safe aromatherapy can be when used properly, it’s worth a try if you have symptoms consistent with what’s commonly understood as adrenal fatigue.

On that note, if you haven’t read our article on adrenal fatigue, read it here. It’s a super helpful summary to get your grounded before you find yourself lost in the dark web...

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