Cultivating Serotonin

There’s been a great deal of development in neuro-science and the understanding of our physiology, the importance of connection. I wanted therefore to highlight the importance of cultivating serotonin and why we need more of it in our lives.
I want more time to create spaces to gather to tell stories. It’s here that we cultivate opportunities to be with others in a space of reciprocal learning.

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I wanted therefore to highlight the importance of cultivating serotonin and why we need more of it in our lives.

When I think of my experience with cultivation I think of my parents growing vegetables on our farm in Nichol’s Point. Also the one and only year my Mother wanted to grow a crop of wheat to harvest, crush and make flour to bread. She really missed her homeland, and also taught us how to use a scythe. This was when she saved my younger sister from being bitten by a brown snake. With one strike she cut off its head with the tip of the shovel. It lay coiled and motionless on the red, dusty soil, like a discarded rope. I tiptoed around it, afraid that it might come to life, because it looked so real. It was unusual to see a snake, there were often other reptiles like goannas and blue tongued lizards, but never a snake and my response was always the same for either, run as fast as you can!

That’s the cortisol response that pumped my fright and flight. I had no idea what that meant as a kid. Snakes were evil and reptiles were scary. I did not have an enquiring mind, just the need to be safe. The knowledge of cultivation therefore might also have been an inherited attribute, but alas I had not really mastered how to grow food even to this day. Instead I learnt the art of make believe, seeking to master acting, theatre and drama that became my life’s philosophy.

Have you ever played the game “YES LETS”? It’s a drama game like follow the leader. “Let’s all jump up and down” and everyone in the group says “YES LETS” and everyone jumps up and down.“Let’s all act like monkeys on a tree”, “YES LETS” and everyone emulates their version of a monkey in a tree. “Let’s all pretend we are squid in a water tank overlooking the St Kilda foreshore from a window on a moonlit night”. “YES LETS”!

The only rule is that you must say yes, and you must follow the person’s suggestion, however ridiculous. In this game absolutely anything is possible, not to mention so much fun to be silly and laugh about it, because you can. Unless you want to be a kill joy- “What a stupid game” and pike out!

Humans were made for play, we need to play, it’s fun and joyful and all the things that come with light and lightness equal PLAY.

For children, play is a natural extension. We played often with cousins. The hearth of the fireplace was our stage where we performed. Suspension of belief where chairs became cars or boats or a cave and our imagination enabled us to thrive in any environment as our own species.

Recently I watched the Angel Choir singing their version of Toto’s Africa. There’s this awesomeness that comes from seeing ordinary people doing extraordinary things and the affirmation that you can do it too, effortlessly. The collective becomes the spirit, becomes the reason for living and becomes the space of belonging to something bigger, more powerful than oneself. This was what attracted me to theatre.

In 1985 I came to Melbourne to study drama at Melbourne College of Advanced education. In my second last year majoring in Media and Drama/Theatre Studies, I also joined a not for profit Theatre company – New Theatre and staged a number of productions at the Organ Factory in Clifton Hill. I produced, directed, stage-managed, designed sets and performed in a number of theatrical productions.

Making theatre was a thrilling roller coaster ride of ups and downs, a seesaw of too high and too low, the flood of too much, the drought of too little, the exacerbation of the curtain call, lights up, action and the serious illusion of the actor suffering for his/her art. The memory of making and creating theatre, of playing, of acting, of imagining and holding a mirror to ourselves. Here also lies the art of cultivating serotonin. In this space there is connection, community and belonging.

Theatre making did not pay my bills, so I left it behind to find a job. I became too ‘serious’ and lost my notion of play.

It’s natural to get cross about stuff sometimes, so let out the angst, breathe out the red and breathe in the green. When you are cross, sit with it, stop, and see it for what it is. In your mind’s eye list everything that pisses you off about this situation. Red highlighter.

Now inject a lighter color and highlight with green all the positive aspects of this situation. Green highlighter.

Breathe in green and breathe out red.

Note the changes in your mood.

The feel good response enabled, is one that highlights compassion, gratitude and joy.

Be grateful for the lesson.

Don’t panic, it’s organic.

The opposite of cortisol, is serotonin.

A friend told me that instead of taking a pill to feel better, we simply need to cultivate serotonin. We may think of discipline as taming the wild, but since becoming a parent, reflecting on my childhood, then discipline is the foundation to cultivate productive habits. A curious mind is much more creative and often stifled by enforced discipline. My experience of the benefits of discipline is one that is initiated by self-motivation, in that what I put in will ultimately reward my efforts, and not be imposed by the agenda of others, but my desire to feel safe, ultimately in control. It also comes down to what one most values, how hard one is willing to work for that one thing. If you can’t be bothered then, you don’t really want it.

More connection is sought to cultivate serotonin and a sense of love. The Beatles were right: All you need is LOVE, for it cultivates serotonin cultivates love.

It is the healing factor.

When we are prepared to look at the pain, when we can look at it, face the raging bull, we see it as it is.

The lesson then is simple, if you want to do something then find a way and do it. Let go of the fear, the red highlighter and inject the green. Just start doing. (Drama means “to do”)

Here I write because I want to tell my stories. I publish my stories with my own merit. I invite the reader to them and to know that they were written with love. They are unique, unadulterated stories. These stories helped me make sense of the world I inhabit. I share my experience of an enhanced sense of goodness, that in turn cultivates serotonin.

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