I’ve settled into country life, exchanging my cute city boots and strolls along my favorite neighborhoods for my ExtraTuff work boots and an old ball cap. I felt nothing short of a hillbilly a few Saturday nights ago when I went out bow fishing with my brother and cousin on the “Carpenator” to shine lights on the water looking to shoot carp with a bow and arrow. I had to laugh standing there until 2am with camo overalls and a Miller Lite in my hand. The pace of life in the country is much different than the city, and it has reminded me of the importance of taking time. Taking time to appreciate the fuzz on the baby turkeys, the sound of Lake Michigan’s waves, picking lettuce from the neighbor’s garden, and the feel of a tired body from farm work.
I’ve found the happy equilibrium for me is the balance between holding close to the goals and dreams of tomorrow while simultaneously living in the present moment. My little mantra that I remind myself of when I can feel my mind getting caught in the slush of details-things to do-results-the next thing is “Be Here Now.” In reality, all we have is the present moment. I feel like we hear that a lot, but what does that really mean? Hopefully it doesn’t take losing someone you love, changing jobs, or an earthquake to remember that.
So much of “happiness” is decided upon by the a person’s attitude. I think in a world of on-the-go, deadlines, and working to accumulate things, it can be difficult to take the time to slow down and find the space to look around and realize there is nothing more important than to be grateful, happy, and enjoy the moment at hand. Before you know it, life passes you by/love is lost/and it is too late to go back.
I think the lifestyle of the average American makes it increasingly difficult to find happiness in life. The combination of the nutrient-poor Standard American Diet, economic downturn, constant exposure to toxins, and work-life balance makes it harder for people in our country to find happiness. Life and its characteristics become an intolerable strain. Depression is the body’s way of shutting down in the presence of such strain.
Many factors such as stress and weather can bring on a low mood, headache, or eating binge, but the ultimate cause is rooted much deeper. In the case of depression, the cause is internal and chemical. There are four neurotransmitters that are naturally produced in our brains that control how cells communicate with each other and underlie all mood and cognition.
One of those neurotransmitters, serotonin, is the “feel good” chemical. Serotonin’s job is to restore a positive mood after minor and major stresses erode it. Serotonin plays an important role in adjusting and regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and pain awareness. Serotonin also has a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system. Low serotonin levels can bring on depression, anxiety, binge eating, insomnia, headaches, and many other problems. Many lifestyle changes can help those who suffer from depression including exercise, listening to music, getting out in nature and feeling sunshine, good quality sleep, and journaling.
Nutrition for Happiness
Foods to avoid are sugar, caffeine, refined foods, and wheat products. Research has been found that certain foods (see below) are particularly beneficial to those suffering from depression.
Tryptophan – an essential amino acid that turns into serotonin
Dairy, turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, avocados, bananas, oats, nuts, seeds, and legumes
Complex Carbohydrates – releases insulin, which promotes serotonin production
Whole grains (except wheat), legumes, starchy vegetables
High-quality Omega-3 Oils – powerful and sustainable boosts to healthy moods
Fish, fish oil supplements, chia seeds, & flax seeds
Vitamin B6 & B12 -the most common deficiency in people with depression
Co-factors to create serotonin
Bananas, spinach, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, sweet potatoes, fish, lean meats
Antioxidants – combat the effects of free radicals (damaging molecules that contribute to aging and depression)
The brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage
Colorful fruits and vegetables
Special thanks to my dear friend Elizabeth for sharing her story and insight with her own struggles with depression.