A sense of well-being, and overall mental health are fundamental aspects of a fulfilling life.
Two factors play a significant role in influencing our mental health and sense of well-being are gut health and creativity.
Gut health is important because the majority of serotonin, one of our primary “feel good” hormones, is produced in the gut.
Creativity has importance because engaging in creative activities is a primary driver for boosting serotonin levels as well. Plus, I’ll share a bonus piece of information related to creativity later on.
So let’s talk about the connection between what’s happening in the gut and the hormones in our bodies that influence the brain. This connection between our gut and brain is generally referred to as the gut-brain connection.
As a quick definition, when I say “gut” I’m referring to our digestive system, primarily the large and small intestines.
Often referred to as the "second brain," the gut houses a complex network of neurons and a significant amount of serotonin-producing cells called enterochromaffin cells.
Serotonin produced in the gut is then released into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain and influences various functions including mood regulation, appetite, and sleep patterns.
The health of our gut and the diversity of our gut microbiota (those awesome little critters that make up our gut biome) directly impact serotonin production. A well-balanced gut flora, achieved through a whole food nutritious diet is foundational to the production of serotonin, enhancing overall well-being and mental health.
To put it simply, If we eat garbage we are likely to have garbage thoughts, emotions, and overall depressive behaviors and moods.
Now that you have a better understanding of the gut's role in serotonin production, let's explore how creativity plays a part in boosting serotonin levels.
Engaging in creative activities, whether it's painting, writing, crafting, dancing, or any form of self-expression, stimulates the brain to release serotonin. Creating things triggers the reward centers in our brains, leading to a sense of accomplishment and pleasure.
Projects that take time to create but give us a glimpse of progress are amazing for boosting serotonin production.
Consider the visual aspect of physically building a model car, landscaping a yard, or creating art. These activities are pleasing and lead to an overall larger result.
When we immerse ourselves in a creative process, our focus shifts away from everyday stressors, allowing us to experience a state of flow. During flow, we become fully absorbed in an activity, leading to increased serotonin production, reduced stress, and an enhanced sense of well-being.
As a bonus, it’s easy to see that successful people are creators. They create businesses, training plans, and pathways that lead to achieving goals. They create lifestyle brands, products, and content.
Think about that for a second. Is there someone you can think of that has achieved success due to being a consumer?
Sure, we can skew the perspective a bit and say that competitive eaters are successful because they can consume food faster or in larger quantities than other people but/and that's really just a crock of shit. Most of those folks monetize what they do by creating a following of youtube or social subscribers anyhow. People pay attention to the content they create, not the food that they eat.
In general when we look at creators that are contributing to the betterment of those around them, we see happy high serotonin producing folks. They eat well, move well, and connect to the world differently than people who primarily consume.
Again, think about people you know or reflect on your own life- What is the overall emotional climate of a consumer?
I’ve been there. I’ve been a person that bought temporary happiness with a new thing. Then what? The new thing is no longer new, and we go back to thinking that happiness is on the other side of the next thing we buy, watch, or eat.
In plain language, it’s not.
Studies show a strong correlation between creativity and happiness. Those of us that regularly engage in creative pursuits report higher levels of life satisfaction, feelings of well-being, and overall happiness.
This can be attributed to the increased serotonin release resulting from creative projects.
When I’m talking about creative projects I’m not saying that you won’t be happy unless you build the next space program, write a book, or design a better baby seat.
Being creative can be as simple as knitting, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or building a birdhouse. Typical arts & crafts activities are great.
Personally, one of my wintertime serotonin building creative activities is tying flies for fly fishing. It’s a creative activity that I can do when the days are short and many of us are working through seasonal depression due to the lack of sunlight. I feel optimistic that the flies I am tying will catch fish and that optimism carries into other piece of my life
In contrast, individuals who primarily consume content without engaging in creative activities may be missing out on the serotonin-boosting benefits. This is because consuming content can lead to passive behavior and a lack of fulfillment. Instead, actively participating in the creative process empowers individuals to shape their experiences, thoughts, and emotions, leading to a greater sense of control and happiness.
The fascinating connection between serotonin production in the gut, creativity, and happiness sheds light on the intricate relationship between mind and body.
Nurturing our gut health through a balanced diet and engaging in creative activities can significantly impact our serotonin levels, leading to improved mood, reduced stress, and increased overall happiness.
As creators, we have the power to take charge of our well-being and experience a greater sense of fulfillment in life. So, why not embrace creativity as a tool to boost serotonin levels and unlock a world of happiness within ourselves?
Whether it's through art, writing, music, or any form of self-expression, let’s embrace our inner creators and reap the countless benefits that accompany a serotonin-rich, joyful life.