Everyone wants to be happy or at least I have never met anyone who does not want happiness in their lives.
We all know people who just look at the glass and instinctively feel the glass is full. We also read that Scandinavians are always rated the happiest people in the world in the happiness reports. The question is if happiness is something we all desire why some people thrive with happiness than others are not naturally “happy -go-lucky”? Do we need to blame ourselves for not knowing how to be happy or for not trying hard enough to achieve happiness? In 21st century, afterwards Covid pandemic can we just simply learn the trade of happiness?
As everything in life, happiness is not a simple category of emotion. The science has discovered that happiness is determined by different factors – internal (originating within the organism) and external factors ( outside the organism). One of the internal sub- predictors of happiness are the biological factors.
Scientific studies of twins suggested that genetic factors are causes of 35-50 percents of happiness. Genetic factors are out of our control, they are inherited from our parents. The good news is that with advance of the generic research it will be possible to predict when people are susceptible to depression.
In addition, the brain chemicals influence our usual emotional style. One of the most important body chemical (and also transmitter) is serotonin. Research showed that 95% of serotonin is produced in the lining of the guts and 5% – in the brain. The serotonin in the brain acts also as a transmitter (messenger that carries signals between brain nerve cells (neurones)). Serotonin is responsible for our happiness, satisfaction and optimism.
Science still does not know how the serotonin works and what is the right level of serotonin. It is accepted that the level of serotonin in the body varies between people. There is no clear test for diagnosing the serotonin shortage. Diagnoses are based on the manifestation of symptoms. Some of the symptoms are fatigue despite sufficient rest, lack of sleep, loss of appetite or craving for carbohydrates, headaches.
A controversial theory is that if the levels of serotonin are low, the person is susceptible to low mood and depression. And the opposite – if the level of the serotonin in the body increases, the person experiences positive emotions. The serotonin deficiency happens when the body does not produce enough serotonin or it does not use serotonin efficiently.
More scientific studies are needed on the mechanism of serotonin and to determine whether there is a link (if any) between serotonin and depression and anxiety.
I came across to the serotonin business one year ago after the death of my mum. The constant source of unconditional love and strength in my life disappeared and I was diagnosed with moderate depression for the first time in my life. Science need more research regarding serotonin but I conducted my research which included reading books, articles and blogs, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube videos – in one word educating myself and applying all the knowledge I acquired to my daily life to fight depression. My personal experience proved some simple measures we can take to defeat depression and be happy.
If you are experience any of the symptoms that potentially relate to low levels of serotonin do not struggle in silence. There is plenty of information available about the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Help is also there and it is up to you to reach for it.
I am from the generation that was thought to be strong and endure difficult times without complaining or asking for help, especially about emotional matters. Asking for help I was told was a sign of weakness and weakness is not a feature to possess. Therefore, I have a great admiration for the millennials and generation Z, people like Naomi Osaka, who make their mental health their priority. Lady Gaga says “ I take medication every day for mental illness and depression and don’t feel bad about it.”
So, ring your doctor! You do not need appointment in person. I phoned my doctor in the middle of the lockdown, when surgeries were closed for appointments and I received excellent service and advice. If your GP diagnoses you with low level of serotonin they can prescribe you drugs as Sertaline. Sertaline comes in two strengths – 50mg and 100mg. I was prescribed Sertaline 50mg – half or one tablet per day. I reacted very well to the drug and felt the positive effect immediately.
But the modern medicine does not stop here, help is not limited to drugs. My GP referred me to the NHS service Steps 2 Wellbeing. The service accepts online self-referrals by using a secure online referral form. You do not need to wait for a GP appointment. The service is open to all adults registered with Dorset and Southampton City GP practices. After filling in the form you receive a timely response from the service and have a phone interview with one of the therapists. Depending on the outcome of the interview you are offered different tailored therapies (Level 2 and Level 3 including a mindfulness course). I attended both levels and all therapies were in groups and via Zoom (Thank you Internet).
I committed fully to the treatments. I took regularly my pills – usually only half of the tablet, I attended every session of the therapies and tried every method suggested. Everything that was relevant to me I implemented in my daily life plus some methods I discovered by myself. The result – I am a very happy and content person. If I can do it, everyone can do it.
There are also non-pharmaceutical paths that can be taken to increase the level of serotonin:
2. Natural light
There is also the street of supplements.
In my next blog I will go through them.