The Pursuit of Happiness

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We live at a time where, in the developed world, good healthcare, housing, sanitation and food are more available than ever before.Yet despite this, dissatisfaction and unhappiness are at an all time high. It would be easy to blame the pandemic for this. Although we are out of the immediate threat of further restrictions, it looms uneasily in the background, and indeed in the minds of many. This includes those affected by covid, either emotionally, financially or physically.

The pursuit of happiness

We live at a time where, in the developed world, good healthcare, housing, sanitation and food are more available than ever before.

Yet despite this, dissatisfaction and unhappiness are at an all time high. It would be easy to blame the pandemic for this. Although we are out of the immediate threat of further restrictions, it looms uneasily in the background, and indeed in the minds of many. This includes those affected by covid, either emotionally, financially or physically.

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It also is a constant reminder for those who unfortunately lost loved ones as a result.

However, discontent in the western world, and indeed all regions classified as first world, has been steadily rising for decades.

This can be seen in increasing numbers of mental health presentations and the younger age at which individuals first attend with symptoms.

The figures for those with severe or treatment resistant symptoms are also on the up.

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Indeed, many have a relapsing remitting course, with episodes of unwell interspersed with periods of stability.

It is estimated that one in four of us will have a period of anxiety or depression needing assistance at some point in our lives.

Yet until recently, provision of mental health services woefully lagged behind those afforded to specialties deemed glamorous or of greater importance, for example heart disease.

Even inside medicine, applying for a position as a mental health doctor was for a long time looked down upon.

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Thankfully, in the last thirty or so years, the tide has changed. More money has been put into the treatment of psychiatric illnesses.

We have high class facilities, staffed by dedicated doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals. They have a unique insight into the suffering of their patients, and look for a way to empower them so that they can regain control of their symptoms and get back their lives.

Some of these clinicians occupy lofty positions in universities and medical organisations such that they are able to push for change, and can be a much-needed voice for their patients.

However, this still begs the issue of why we are so disillusioned.

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This is not an easy question to answer and clearly has many reasons. Some are programmed that way, through nature or nurture. Significant events and trauma as a child have the ability to shape how we see the world, our interactions and level of trust we afford to others.

Domestic abuse witnessed as a child has a high likelihood of causing problems in the immediate as well as down the line.

Parental separation or the break up of a family unit is also a strong predictor of future mental health issues, especially if the child or children feel that they were a contributing factor.

But despite this, there is a group who will freely admit that they have the perfect life, with none of the above-mentioned triggers, but still feel anxious and/ or depressed, and that they are puzzled by it.

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This is the group that most often seek counselling to try to resolve these issues. Many may laugh when those affected say it “must be something in the water”.

This phrase may have more truth in it than we are comfortable to admit.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “They are living their best life”, or “go big, or go home”, or indeed the good old “raising the bar”.

While happiness is fleeting, we hope to find contentment that is long term, maybe even permanent.

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By lowering the bar, and our expectations out of life, and more importantly ourselves, we can release the valve on the pressure cooker that is threatening to consume us.

Unhappiness can creep up on us insidiously. We are not perfectly well one day, and then unwell the next. A bowel cancer grows from a polyp and can take ten years to become an actual cancer.

Mental illness can often present in a similar fashion, although it can appear seemingly out of the blue. However, this is often preceded by a significant life event.

Investing in your mental health should be seen in the same way as brushing your teeth, getting enough sleep, a good diet and adequate exercise.

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Take time to check in on yourself, and those you care about and love. Don’t be afraid to seek help early. If symptoms don’t go on their own in a reasonable time frame, or you feel yourself sliding, please do not try to put on a brave face or try to go it alone.

It is estimated that one in four of us will have a period of anxiety or depression needing assistance at some point in our lives.

Domestic abuse witnessed as a child has a high likelihood of causing problems in the immediate as well as down the line.

A group will freely admit that they have the perfect life, but still feel anxious and/ or depressed