Over the course of the last few months I have gotten into a ‘low-mood rut’. I started to find that my mood was regularly dipping, I often felt overwhelmed, I was failing to get much enjoyment out of things that used to make me happy. And then, the other week, this culminated into my first panic attack for a very long time… a panic attack over really nothing in particular, leaving me feeling low, fragile and teary.
Now this was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Before that, yes, I had been feeling a bit rubbish… but it didn’t seem like it was bad enough for me to actually do anything about it. I was able to live my regular life so I really felt as though I had nothing to complain about. People are struggling far worse than you, I thought, I’ll just power through and things are bound to pick up.
However, I’ve come to realise that I should have been setting my standards higher. We should all be striving, not just to get through the day so we can return to the comfort of our bed and Netflix in the evening, but to actually live our life as fully as we can, and really get enjoyment out of it. Let’s strive for more than the ‘not great but alright’ rut that so many of us find ourselves in.
And so, I returned to Day 8 of the Happynesshub 21-Day Toolkit – ‘Choosing Happiness’. And, according to leading psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, our happiness is determined by three factors: genetics, widely believed to account for 50%, circumstances such as geography and demography for 10%, and 40% for our own intentional thoughts and activities – how we react to the things we can’t change.
However, it is not necessarily this clear-cut, and research continues in this area. Just last week, it was announced that that National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource and King’s College London are launching a study in which they are calling for 40,000 people with anxiety or depression to partake in a study on genetic links to mental health problems. By exploring this information with such a huge number of participants, understanding and treatment can be better analysed. Indeed, if you are interested in taking part in this study, you can register at www.GLADStudy.org.uk.
Whilst work is being done to discover how much our mental health is determined by genetics… I’d like to focus on the part we know we can control. Aside from genetics and life circumstances, the malleable part is our mindset. If you are predisposed to depression, what it means is that you may need to work harder to understand your own mind, to work out what enables you to manage your emotions and then to choose to work at these things (perhaps with the support of others) – whether they be spending time outdoors, being surrounded by close friends, meditating or even just losing yourself in a good book. It is an ongoing process… but a process that, ultimately, will increase your quality of life. And it all starts with a choice – a commitment to being as happy as you can be.
So Hubbers, let’s all strive for more. Let’s all examine where we are sitting on our happiness ladders and make a decision – by next month, even next year, strive to move up one or two rungs, and, over time, as we learn to manage our own happiness maybe we’ll be able to reach the top.