When we are depressed what are the reasons we give for our depression? Failures, pressure, disappointment, toxic relationship, dishonesty, betrayal, criticism, financial issues. These things will affect us a lot. But these are not the only reasons. In fact, if you are physically capable of being happy you will face all the above-said challenges with ease and poise.
Now you can ask me what does being physically capable of being happy mean?
Happiness is not only psychological but also physiological. When you ask someone what makes them happy, again they would say financial freedom, good relationship, peace of mind. All these things are psychological.
We all know about the four happiness chemicals — dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins — and how these affect our well-being and happiness. Let’s delve deep into it.
Serotonin—We all know that the gut bacteria helps in digestion, decreases gas or bloating, makes vitamins. But what we don’t know is that when we have the right amount of gut bacteria (friendly microbes), we will have a good mood, lower stress level and better sleep. When we consider the connection between the brain and the gut, it’s important to know that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in the gut. Not just receptors 90% of serotonin is produced by these gut bacteria. Now tell me, are you in good mood because of psychological or physiological?
Due to a lack of exposure to sunlight, Vitamin D is not produced in the body resulting in low serotonin.
Solution—Eat whole foods and avoid packaged or processed foods, which are high in unwanted food additives and preservatives that disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Dopamine— is a neurotransmitter travelling through the nervous system responsible for pleasure and reward. This is the important chemical needed to keep you motivated. The problem arises when we abuse this system through overuse. The classic example being drugs. When our body is flooded with dopamine because of drugs, our brain starts reducing the number of dopamine receptors and also the size of this, to control it. Not just drugs but excess of sugar, social media, shopping, gambling also results in reducing our body’s natural ability to be happy.
Solution— Dopamine fasting. Avoid too much dopamine – social media, alcohol, drugs, caffeine. If you feel you are addicted to any of these do fasting for 48 days.
In 14 days, cravings slow down. You will be able to control them. But you also need to make sure you avoid trigger as sensitive pathways are still intact. In 30 days, prefrontal cortex gets stronger giving you more control over your actions. In 45 Days, sensitised pathways start getting weaker and it will be easy to kick addictions. If you can continue it to 150 days, you become more motivated and confident.
Endorphin—A low level of this hormone is the main reason why some people are highly sensitive and have low pain tolerance.
Solution—Physical activity is the only solution. Endorphins are the reason why runners get runner’s high. So get up, pick some activity — try walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, Zumba, asanas, self-defence or any other sports. Try different things.
Low stomach acid — Even low stomach acid can severely impact your ability to be happy. Your body will not be able to break proteins and make hormones.
Solution— Try Intermittent Fasting. 14-16 hours of rest to our intestines are important for various reasons one of them being an increase of stomach acid.
Prefrontal cortex— People who can access their prefrontal cortex well will be more cautious. They will not act in an impulsive manner. They will have more insight, good judgement and show more empathy.
Let’s see an example of teenagers. Although prefrontal cortex is fully developed in teenagers accessing it is tough for them. Only around
mid-twenties, youngsters start accessing their prefrontal cortex. This explains to us why teenagers take so many risks.
The brain is the last organ to mature and sometimes even by mid 20’s, they lack the ability to use the frontal lobe.
Solution – Meditation. Meditation is one of the most efficient ways to develop the ability to access the prefrontal access. Being non-judgemental, cautious and showing empathy is very important for peace in our life.
Other important Hormones
Cortisol, estrogen, testosterone and thyroid— Low or high (Hyper/Hypo) amounts of these hormones are detrimental for our well-being. Let me not go deep into this as the blog might sound like a biology class. Rather let me give the solution.
Solution—Avoid foods with chemicals, pesticides and toxins. Go for organic foods. Avoid dairy, as they are loaded with hormones. Avoid too much sugar, GMO foods.
In India, more than 1,39,000 people commit suicide in a year. Some of these can be avoided if we take care of these physiological issues. By no means I am trying to simplify this very complex issue. All that I am asking is to see both sides of the coin. So next time when you have a problem, start with your physiology rather than cursing those around you.