There are a lot of things that give me serotonin: cafe lo-fi playlists, soy candles, Korean skincare, and pastel tote bags to name a few. But a couple of the things that boosts my serotonin the most are iced coffee and matcha lattes. To reference a book series that definitely gave me serotonin back in the day, Percy Jackson & The Olympians, caffeine was my equivalent of ambrosia. Caffeine really helped me through a lot, and mainly gave me that healing effect to the two biggest stressors in my life: work and school.

This summer, I had briefly transitioned from the routine of a University of Florida student to one of a Comcast summer intern. I was working 9-5, studying once I clock out, and periodically driving between my campus town and my hometown of Orlando. School and work had always been the things that had kept me most busy, and, these days, they were really at the forefront. The difference that a quick trip to the local coffee shop and a sip of my go-to iced latte made to my day, however, was astounding.

Caffeine had been my solution to a draining study session or a long shift at work so often that my café preferences had gone through an evolution. In the beginning I was solely a Starbucks gal, then I added Dunkin’ to my rotation of caffeine, and now I have attained the trifecta of the two chains alongside local cafes. But the remedy remains the same: caffeine always gives me that boost of happiness to push me through whatever I had to get done that day. 

Jeannie Kwun

So, what is serotonin? It’s the hormone that balances our mood, happiness, and anxiety. It can also help with sleeping, eating, and digesting when functioning throughout our body. One way to think about this is on a normal level, you’re more like Joy from Inside Out. But on an abnormal level, you become Sadness.

Caffeine can have different effects on various individuals, but overall it’s a psychoactive drug that mimics certain brain functions. The main subject of imitation is adenosine, a biochemical that regulates your blood flow (among other things!). By mimicking adenosine, caffeine produces that surge of energy we get as a result of sipping our caramel macchiato. This in turn has a lot of effects on our bodies (such as f­eeling more alert and awake), and the release of serotonin is one of them. 

However, there can be too much of a good thing. Caffeine could be two-fold when it comes to the effects it has on your body. For example, although it can make us feel more awake by mimicking adenosine, it could also require even more intake of caffeine in order to battle the buildup of sleep-inducing receptors that result from that initial cup of coffee. Most times I revive and gain more motivation to be productive after taking a sip of my coffee or matcha, but other times I can feel suddenly fatigued after finishing my cup. Jumping back to the Inside Out reference, we wouldn’t want Joy pushing the lever that makes us go happy on full force 24/7. Remember that it’s important to moderate!

All in all, having that cup of energy in my hand pushes me to conquer arduous scenarios, whether that’s a lengthy paper due for a seminar course or wrapping up my final presentation for my internship. It got me through thick and thin, and quite literally gave me serotonin. So I encourage you to do the same: do what makes you happy! Whether that’s a shaken espresso, iced mocha, vanilla latte, or whatever your heart (more so, your brain) desires.