Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Reasons to be cheerful…

Depression, it’s become another modern day epidemic.

According to the WHO, the World Health Organisation:

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease
  • More women are affected by depression than men
  • At its worst, depression can lead to suicide

That’s a sad reality.

heard a statistic that shocked me this morning.

In 2016, there were 44,965 suicides in the United States of America, and that figure is likely low, due to under-reporting. Can you visualise in your mind’s eye what 45 thousand people looks like, if they all stood in a big field in one place? Yikes. Suicide rates per 100,000 of population are slightly lower in the UK, but we still saw over 5,800 suicides in the same time period.

It makes me wonder what is going wrong in our modern society that so many people take their own lives, living in such rich, abundant societies. In wealthy nations such as the US and the UK, we supposedly ‘have it all’ in wealth, healthcare, standard of living, yet so many people are so unhappy that their paths lead to suicide. I think about this too much, and it leads me to tears, as a father and as a citizen, it’s such a sad fact of our modern lives.

It makes me think ‘clearly wealth and possessions don’t automatically mean happiness’. I mean, in the US and the UK we have so much that folks in poorer countries do not…

  • Social and political freedoms
  • We have the best modern healthcare
  • Never-before-seen-in-human-history low infant mortality
  • Ubiquitous public sanitation
  • Clean drinking water for all
  • Electricity and heating for every home
  • State healthcare
  • Welfare systems
  • Flushing toilets

Billions of humans live in other countries without these luxuries, we should all be counting our blessings every day!

There seems to be little correlation between wealth and suicide at a national level.

But I meet people every day who are miserable, unhappy, complaining of anxiety and depression. They have warm comfortable homes, modern cars, every comfort and luxury. Their biggest worry is where to take their annual holiday, which episode of some TV series to watch, or which take-away pizza toppings to order. Clearly, depression is not caused by the difficulty of our life circumstances, or at least it’s not that alone.

Which begs the question, and yes I know I am massively over-simplifying things here (come on, it’s a short blog post, not a PhD thesis), if people in rich countries who have freedom and every luxury can be depressed, while people in poor countries with few possessions or luxuries can be happy, then what is causing much of the depression in our society?

Of course, such a huge discussion is beyond the scope of this blog post, and there are many varied causes behind depression. Trauma, abuse, psychological harm, biochemical imbalances, a myriad of social and psychological factors, and while I am unqualified and unskilled in this area, I am sure no two cases are ever the same, and everyone is different.

But I do have some personal experience, having been through depression myself at one time in my life; and I have some knowledge through studies and experiences of how lifestyle and dietary factors can exacerbate some cases of depression, or help alleviate them.

I’m not saying any quack nonsense about “Just cheer up and eat some broccoli and you’ll be fine!” I think we all know it’s a bit more complicated than that…and as I wrote above, there are doubtless no two cases of depression that are the same, with no two same causes and no two same cures.

But there are some things you can do to help ensure that biologically, your brain is working optimally.

  • You can get more sleep. Sleep deprivation is a well known contributing causal factor in many brain disorders, including anxiety and depression. Sitting up til 3am watching TV, checking Facebook on your phone at four in the morning, shift work and chronic long-term sleep deprivation are all no-no’s, and these are factors you can control. Get to bed soon after 10pm, make sure your bedroom is cool, properly dark, well ventilated (clean behind wardrobes to remove mould and excess dust), and leave the electronic devices downstairs – bed is for sleep, love making and reading a book, nothing else.
  • Get more sunshine. It’s a fact that around 70% or so of the UK population are somewhat deficient in vitamin D. The best way to get optimal vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun, so with most folks working indoors these days, and given our grey weather much of the year, vitamin D can be a real challenge! Whenever you can, get outside and get some skin on show. Eat plenty of oily fish, eggs and liver. Consider having your vitamin D tested and maybe taking a supplement for the winter half of the year.
  • Improve your diet. While it remains scientifically unproven at this point in time, I feel sure that in the future studies will show that diet has more of an impact on mental health than we currently credit it for. Don’t wait, improve your diet now:
    • Zinc plays many relevant roles in brain health, including helping with libido, stress coping, dopamine production, depression and more. Eat plenty of fresh oily fish, shellfish, free-range eggs and nuts to keep zinc high in your diet.
    • Magnesium has been shown to have links to anxiety, learning ability, confusion, irritability and insomnia. Keep magnesium high by eating lots of fresh leafy greens, fish, nuts and seeds.
    • Don’t starve, and avoid the fad diets. Studies suggest that severe calorie restriction can exacerbate anxiety and stress.
    • Your brain is made of mostly fat and water, so ensure you nourish it well by keeping both high in your diet – good fats from oily fish, organ meats, free-range eggs, avocado, grass-fed butter, olive oil and nuts are all good, plus stay well hydrated which helps combat fatigue in many ways.
  • Exercise is a proven way to combat stress, anxiety and depression. Establish a daily habit of taking some exercise, keep it varied and fun, try to find a participation sport you enjoy. Regular movement and exercise has also been proven to help reduce and slow dementia in the elderly.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation, work over time to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and always try to see all the good in your life – focus on the good, not the challenges.

Maybe you noticed, that all these tips are already encapsulated in the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet, a healthy lifestyle that’s good for both your mind and your body.

I can’t promise you that a jog round the block and a plate full of broccoli will cure anything, including depression, but Mother Nature’s Diet is all about teaching preventive medicine, and living this way can ensure your brain is functioning as well as possible biologically, to help you cope with everything life throws at you, the good and the bad.

Let’s help spread the word to as many people as possible.

To your good health!

Karl

 

Are we struggling with the wrong things?

I urge you to take the time to read this if you want to make sense of your life and the things you struggle with.

What do you struggle with?

  • Your weight? The number on the scales?
  • Your career, your income, your bank balance, your business?
  • Your life choices, balancing family, kids, marriage, career, life? Do you feel empty, or fulfilled, do you constantly question if you are making the right choices in life?
  • Relationships? Love?
  • Do you think happiness is something that you will feel in the future, when you lose that weight, when people accept you, respect you, love you? Will you be happy when you are rich, secure, retired? When you can quit the job? Will you be happy for 2 weeks out of 52 when you are on holiday?

Read this.

Take the time.

Recently, I was reading Ray Dalio’s new book, Principles, and these words struck me, and I just have to share them with you. As always, I’m pressed for time, the last thing I have time to do is type up several hundred words that are not even my own words. But sometimes, you just have to do something that feels important.

Of course, I could do this the quick way, and just photograph the relevant couple of pages from the book and share them in this post saying ‘read this’ – but instead I am going to write the words out, because there is no better way for me to learn this and really take it in, than to write it all out for you. When we share words of wisdom or a passage of text, we not only pass on that gift to others, but we get to learn it and experience it all over again for ourselves. That sounds like a win:win to me.

Ray Dalio – Principles

Context: the author is Ray Dalio. Maybe you have never even heard of him, he’s a superstar in the world of finance, but to the rest of us, he’s largely unknown. In short, he’s probably the most famous and most influential person in the world of hedge funds, ever. He predicted things like the subprime financial meltdown in 2008 and no one else believed him. They do now.

He spent 40 years building a hedge fund company that is ranked by Fortune as the fifth most important private company in the US, Forbes magazine rank him as one of the 100 richest people in the world (he’s worth about $17bn), and Time magazine ranked him one of the 100 most influential people on the planet. He started trading stocks aged 12, he was working neighbourhood jobs for money from age 8, he was not born into millions, he started his company from home working alone, went bust after a few years and had to start again, has been ‘down and out’ in business and finances twice, then became a billionaire. He’s married, got four kids, been through some life drama, and gives away millions and millions to good causes. He’s now retirement age (68) and writing his memoirs and all he learned in life, to pass on after his death. This book is the first half of that work. Seems to me he’s a pretty smart guy.

I’m going to share a couple of pages from his book. This is him closing out the first 120 pages of his book, summarising his life story and then the rest of this book goes on to share the lessons he learned along the way.

Take it away, Ray:

“Watching the same things happen again and again, I began to see reality as a gorgeous perpetual motion machine, in which causes become effects that become causes of new effects, and so on. I realized that reality was, if not perfect, at least what we are given to deal with, so that any problems or frustrations I had with it were more productively directed to dealing with them effectively than complaining about them. I came to understand that my encounters were tests of my character and creativity. Over time, I came to appreciate what a tiny and short-lived part of that remarkable system I am, and how it’s both good for me and good for the system for me to know how to interact with it well.

In gaining this perspective, I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature’s reminder that there is something important for me to learn. Encountering pains and figuring out the lessons they were trying to give me became sort of a game to me. The more I played it, the better I got at it, the less painful those situations became, and the more rewarding the process of reflecting, developing principles, and then getting rewards for using those principles became. I learned to love my struggles, which I suppose is a healthy perspective to have, like learning to love exercising (which I haven’t managed to do yet).

In my early years, I looked up to extraordinarily successful people, thinking that they were successful because they were extraordinary. After I got to know such people personally, I realised that all of them Read more