Category: family

The Key to True Happiness: Does it Even Exist?

Do you feel like happiness is more elusive than ever? Like God must have skipped you when he was handing out the “happy” gene?

I have to admit I used to feel that way. And it never made sense to me because I had a great childhood. But then suddenly depression hit me like a brick wall. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why I should feel depressed when I had so much to be thankful for.

At that point in my life I chased happiness like it was a runaway freight train full of gold. I seemed to have read every resource out there on how to be happy. But somehow true happiness seemed to always be out of my reach.

It wasn’t until this passed Fall that I had a grand realization about happiness.

But let me be clear that when I speak of happiness, I don’t mean the constant state of feeling elated each and every waking hour of my life. What I’m referring to is a general state of mind. Of course I expect highs and lows in life – anything otherwise would be unnatural and unhealthy.

So what happened in the Fall? Well, first of all I started back to work full time. The previous year I had been part time as a way to “ease back in” to work after my long illness.

Everything was going quite well until I started feeling those signs of depression again. I know them now, and I wasn’t going to wait for a major setback before taking action.

I immediately (quite literally the next day) dropped down to part time and that’s where I’m at today – and I’m thriving.

Now, you might be wondering how I manage to keep up a blog if I was struggling to keep my full-time day job. Well, this is where the big epiphany came for me – because I asked myself the same question.

You see, when I was teaching full time I truly enjoyed it. But the problem was, I had no time to myself when working those kinds of hours. I desperately wanted to write, but just couldn’t make it happen.

Not having time to foster my passion for writing made me feel trapped. I had to go to work every day for a certain time, and when I came home I was exhausted. But I didn’t have any choice – or so I thought.

When I switched to part time it meant I now had my mornings to myself. After getting the kids ready and off to school, I can now do what I want (to the degree that we can all do what we want ;) ).

I can write all morning; I can clean up the house; I can do errands; I can do whatever I think will make me feel productive that day.

So, the key to true happiness? Choices. It’s when we feel that we have no control over what’s going on in our lives that our happiness starts to dwindle.

And although I enjoy teaching, it wasn’t enough to fulfill me. I needed an outlet for my love of writing and now I have it.

You may not be able to currently do something as drastic as going from working full time at your day job to part time, but there are many other ways to give yourself choices in your life:

1. Choose to give yourself the gift of time. Allot a certain hour or half hour of the day to do whatever it is you want. Even if it’s only 15 min, this will feel very liberating.

2. Choose to follow your passion. Give up unnecessary activities such as T.V. and Facebook. This will give you more time to pursue want you really want in life. Think about it…Do you know anyone whose passion in life is to watch more T.V.?

3. Choose to say no. Say no to the myriad of after-school activities you have your children enrolled in (they may even thank you!). Say no to a co-worker when they ask you if you have time to take on yet another project.

4. Choose to be honest with yourself. Lying will get you nowhere – especially when it’s to yourself. Are you living your best life? What realistic changes can you make that will make life more fulfilling?

5. Choose to give yourself choices. Seem redundant? Think about it. Often we keep telling our selves we “don’t have a choice”, when actually, we always do. You just have to be willing to open your eyes and your mind to all the possibilities in front of you.

6. Choose to be happy. Stop chasing. Just be.

And lastly, take your focus off of your state of mind and start counting your blessings. Put your focus on helping someone else. You’ll hopefully realize that not only are you not as bad off as you thought, but nothing breeds happiness like doing something for others.

Why I take Omega-3, and you should too!

A diet high in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA helps protect the brain against the memory loss and cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Neuroscientists from the University of California have shown for the first time that a diet rich in DHA may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and may help slow progression of the disorder in its later stages.

Senior author and Professor of Neurology, Greg Cole PhD, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA explains

“This is the first proof that our diets affect how our brain cells communicate with each other under the duress of Alzheimer’s disease. We saw that a diet rich in DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, dramatically reduces the impact of the Alzheimer’s gene.”

He added that the average person can easily add more omega 3 to the diet, in the form of fish oil capsules, high-fat fish, or eggs which have been supplemented with DHA.

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The researchers focused on Alzheimer’s damage to synapses – the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.

They used mice which had been bred with genetic mutations that cause the brain lesions linked to advanced Alzheimer’s disease. When they found that the mice developed the lesions, but showed minimal memory loss or synaptic brain damage, which might normally have been expected, the scientists took a closer look at the animals’ diet.

They discovered that the mice lived on a nutritious diet of soy and fish – two ingredients rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Because earlier studies had suggested that omega-3 fatty acids might prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers realised that the mice’s diet could be helping to fight the progression of brain damage.

To check whether this was indeed happening, the scientists swapped safflower oil for the soy and fish to create an unhealthy diet depleted of omega-3 fatty acids. The mice were divided into two sets of older mice, which already showed brain lesions but showed no major loss of brain-cell activity. Both sets of mice were given safflower oil, which is not high in DHA, instead of the fish and soy diet. The second group were also given DHA supplements from algae.

After five months, the researchers compared each set of mice to a control group that consumed the same diet but did not carry the Alzheimer’s genes. The results surprised them.

They found that the mice who were given diets low in DHA had high levels of synaptic damage in their brains, and they observed that these changes closely resembled those in the brains of humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the mice on the DHA-supplemented diet also carried the Alzheimer’s genes, they still performed much better in memory testing than the mice in the first group.

Even after adjusting for all possible variables, DHA was the only factor remaining that protected the mice against the synaptic damage and memory loss that should have resulted from their Alzheimer’s genes, according to Professor Cole.

He said “We concluded that the DHA-enriched diet was holding their genetic disease at bay.”

The UCLA scientists hope to use their findings in a new study which will track DHA-related biomarkers in the urine and cerebral spinal fluid of Alzheimer’s patients. Finding these biomarkers earlier would enable treatment to begin earlier.

DHA is absorbed very quickly by the human brain, and is critical for proper cognitive function, eye development and mental tasks. DHA helps keep the brain membrane fluid, moves proteins and helps to convert signals from other parts of the body into action.

Inexpensive sources of DHA include coldwater fish, such as salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and herring. These fish consume algae, which is high in DHA.

However, these fish also absorb more mercury, dioxin, PCP and other metals and therefore a less risky strategy is to consume either fish oil or purified DHA supplements made from algae. Alternatively DHA-rich eggs laid by chickens that eat DHA-supplemented feed can be included in the diet.

This study was funded by The National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Home Alone

For many elderly people being home alone has become their everyday life.

As the nights draw in and the weather turns colder, it can be easy, between the school runs, to shut ourselves away in our houses and hibernate for the winter, forgetting about those living only meters away that will be spending another day alone.

Families are living further apart, with grandparents often moving to warmer climates.  Many children grow up, without experiencing what it means to care for older members of a family. Forming relationships with other adults is an important part of a child’s social development. Not only will they experience a wider variety of viewpoints, skills and interests, but also interacting with different people can bring out different facets of a child’s personality. Often, a normally timid child will delight in showing off their talents to an older adult, who in turn is happy to provide endless rounds of applause.

Everyone wants to bring their children up in a caring community and taking a moment to check on an elderly member of the community shows children the joy that simple, small everyday things can bring. Even a smile and a wave to the neighbour who can no longer venture outside can brighten their day and let them know that someone cares.

There are many organizations across the country that provide essential services, help and care for Britain’s elderly. One organization that is solely dedicated to tackling the loneliness and isolation that seniors suffer is Contact the Elderly.

We organize monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people (aged 75+) who live alone, and volunteers within their local community, offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.

Each older person is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon.  The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
Our tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for our older members who have little or no contact with any family or friends.  They bring people of all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month.

I’m on my own 24 hours a day, except for the milkman. You see no-one, hear no-one, except for the milkman. Man wasn’t meant to be alone. It’s no exaggeration – the Contact gatherings are the one bright light in my life – it’s fantastic. The volunteers are lovely personalities and you are welcomed into people’s homes and we sometimes sit in a nice garden. You meet other elderly people, have a chat and a laugh with them. It’s heaven.

So, consider opening your family’s home and sharing some warmth and friendship this winter. Your family could gain a “grandparent” in the process.

There are many other ways to care for our seniors in the community:

  • Pay attention to their routines. If your elderly neighbour’s milk or newspapers are still outside one day, knock on the door to check that they are okay.
  • If there are icy or snowy conditions, encourage your children to clear the pathway.
  • Check that they have adequate heating and food.
  • Consider putting up a small bird feeder near a window so that they can enjoy watching the local wildlife.