Have you ever known you were being ornery, but couldn’t seem to do anything about it? Have you ever woken up, and just wanted to do nothing but crawl back under the covers and hide from the world? Do you ever worry, stress or fret about things that you can’t really change? If you answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to the group! You aren’t alone, and more and more, you are probably part of the majority of people in today’s world. Why is this so prevalent? Why do a lot of us struggle to be happy and stay happy? Why are pharmaceutical companies making lots of bucks off of people’s struggles? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have some ideas. As a part of women’s health month, I want to tell you about my personal journey with happiness and share some things that have worked for our family.
My son Luke has challenges with being happy. We often say it’s like living with a black cloud that rarely goes away. It’s hard to be around a black cloud without getting rained on, and I’ve gotten particularly wet lately. It’s starting to affect how I interact with my other kids. I’m always so on edge with Luke, I don’t want the other kids being noisy or messing around…basically being kids. I get impatient with all of them for things that really shouldn’t set me off. I can often see myself acting this way, but I can’t seem to change it. I was stuck and I didn’t like what it was doing to me or my family.
When I get stuck with something, my first move is to learn more. I overheard someone at a doctor’s office talking about a book that had saved her family called the Mood Cure. I looked it up and found it quickly on Amazon. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. I bought it, downloaded it to my Kindle and started learning. I was hooked from the first paragraph. She describes how we have real emotions and false emotions. A real emotion would be if your mother got sick and you were worried and sad. A false emotion would be worrying about finding a parking place at the mall, and getting testy with everyone in the car because of it. The book has a questionnaire that you can answer, targeting your mood challenges. I gave Luke the test, and surprise, surprise, he tested very high on the “Living under a dark cloud” section.
So what do we do about it? His dark cloud was giving me one too. The book explains how our bodies and brains work, and what makes them happy. It’s all about chemistry (I knew all those classes would come in handy some day!). Hormones make us happy, and if we are short on hormones, we get sad. This is a very simple version, but that’s basically how it works. Those hormones are made from amino acids, and we get amino acids from proteins that we eat. In today’s day, our food has been stripped of a lot of these amino acid building blocks. One study I read said that they analyzed a breakfast cereal, and they analyzed the box it was sold in. They found the cardboard box to have more usable nutrients than the cereal… Don’t get me started on nutrition. I could write for DAYS about it, but I’ll keep it short today. We are particularly low on usable building blocks, so why do you think more and more of us struggle to be happy??
The book follows with specific recommendations for each mood challenge you have (there are four you can test yourself for). I learned that happiness is affected by your serotonin levels. What in the world is serotonin?? You don’t actually need to know, you just need to know how to get more of it. Luke and I have started taking a supplement that the book recommended that will help us make more serotonin. It said that you can often see change in as little as 15 minutes after taking the supplement. We took the pill and I started counting…
We have been taking it for about five days, and I’ve seen some interesting things. Our family was driving in the car yesterday evening. The kids were being wild and my husband was getting frustrated. I realized that in the past, I would have been frustrated too, but this time it didn’t bug me. It was a very odd and very welcome realization. Luke had a great day in school today. His PE teacher told me they started learning to jump rope in class, and she was worried about how Luke would react. In the past, if he doesn’t do something perfect the first time, he gets mad, throws down whatever he’s using and stomps off to pout in the corner. She knew he wouldn’t be able to jump rope perfectly the first time, so thought she was in for a famous Luke melt down. It didn’t happen. She said he couldn’t do it, but just kept trying. No melt down, no tears, just a happy little first grader. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but to us, that’s darn near a miracle. Is it the serotonin?!?! Who knows, but we are taking our “happy pills” religiously and I’m excited to see the results.
Now it’s not as easy as I’ve made it sound. There is also a pretty rigorous diet that goes a long with the supplements, but it’s all worth it if it helps. I’m happier, he’s happier, our home is happier. As I’ve shared this story with a few people today, every person has a happiness struggle they share back with me – their own or the struggle of a family member. This is something that is right under our noses. We are simply not getting what we need out of what we eat in the standard American diet any more. We don’t have to be unhappy, worried, depressed or sad. Our bodies are amazing machines, and if we give them the right fuel, they will perform in amazing ways for us. Let’s join together and start talking about our challenges. It’s not a bad thing to say you struggle with being happy. I bet the person you are telling has a challenge of their own that they are keeping inside too. For our family, the ideas and principles in the Mood Cure have been life changing. Do you have another resource you would like to share?
So my challenge to you this week is to look inside and evaluate your moods. Could you use some help? Do you have family members that could use some help? If so, start learning. Google it, go to the library, talk to your friends and family. Be open about your challenges and you will get the help you need. Let’s all get happy, and then we can all make the world a better place!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen