Depression & Happiness: Is the difference in our DNA?

If only the gene pool came with a filter and a half decent lifeguard …

The propensity to feel happiness, or not, might lie in our DNA in the form of an unhappiness gene.

Clearly happiness is not about what we have – there are plenty of unhappy people who have a lot and plenty of happy people who have little.

Scientists may have found the answer – it’s in our DNA, in the form of a gene, ADRA2b, that causes some people to pay more attention to negative emotional events.

The gene is present in about 50% of Caucasians which is much higher than in other ethnic groups.

The ADRA2b gene influences the degree to which people tune in to negative or threatening things around in the environment, affecting not only how events are perceived in the first place, but also how they are remembered later on.

The study involved showing participants a series of emotional words which were positive, negative, or neutral. Participants who had the ADRA2b gene variant were more like to perceive the negative words than those who did not have the variant. Words which were positive were perceived similarly by all participants.

For example, people with the gene are more likely to notice an angry face in a crowd and remember it later on, rather than enjoying the company of those around them.

As explained by Prof Rebecca Todd, lead author of the study, ‘the findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-coloured glasses – and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception.’

Being emotionally sensitive to what’s happening in the environment is a good thing – it’s the food of happy relationships and a safe and nurturing environment. Things can’t be put right if nobody notices when they are wrong.

Focussing too much on the negative does harm. Rumination – focusing on negative thoughts and events – is a risk factor for depression.

Perception is a critical part of the way we experience and respond to the world. It influences everything – our mood, our relationships, the goals we set, the way we bring up our children. Everything.

It’s important to remember that genetics don’t necessarily have to determine outcome. Think of it like walking around in a dark room. You bump into things, stumble, fall. But when you turn on a light everything that was there in the dark is still there – but now you can navigate around it.

For those who tend to perceive life with a grey hue, being armed with this knowledge can open up the possibility that just because you feel it – negative, threatened, sad – doesn’t necessarily mean it has to dictate who you are. 

Genes interact with our environment and our upbringing and though you can’t change your genes, you can change your environment, how you respond to it, and those you allow to be in it. For ways to pull out of negative thinking, see here.

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For our children, we start building the foundations for adolescence in their earliest years - the relationship we’ll have with them, who they are going to be, how they are going to be. One of the things we’ll want to build is their capacity to know their own minds and be brave enough to use it. This isn’t easy, even for adults, so the more practice we give them, the more they’ll be able to access their strong, brave, beautiful minds when they need to - when we aren’t there.

This means letting them have a say when we can, asking their opinions, and letting them disagree.

When kids and teens argue, they’re communicating. We need to listen, but the need won’t always be obvious. When littles argue because it’s spaghetti for dinner and ‘I hate spaghetti so much’ (even though last week and the 5 years before last week, spaghetti was their favourite), they might be expressing a need for sleep, power and influence, or independence. All are valid. When your teen argues because they want to do something you’ve said no to, the need might be to preserve their felt sense of inclusion with their tribe, or independence from you. Again, all valid. 

Of course, a valid need doesn’t mean it will always be met. Sometimes our needs might need to take priority to theirs, such as our need to keep them safe, or for them to learn that they can still be okay if everything doesn’t go their way, or that sometimes people will have conflicting needs that need to take priority. What’s important is letting them know we hear them and we get it.

It’s going to take time for kids to learn how to argue and express themselves respectfully. In the meantime, the words might be clumsy, loud, angry. This is when we need to hold on to ourselves, meet them where they are, let them know we hear them, and step into our leadership presence. We might give them what they need because it makes sense and because there isn’t enough reason not to. Sometimes, after giving them space to be heard we’ll need to stand our ground. Other times we might solve the problem collaboratively: This is what you want. This is what I want. Let’s talk about how we can we both get what we need.♥️
Anxiety will always tilt our focus to the risks, often at the expense of the very real rewards. It does this to keep us safe. We’re more likely to run into trouble if we miss the potential risks than if we miss the potential gains. 

This means that anxiety will swell just as much in reaction to a real life-threat, as it will to the things that might cause heartache (feels awful, but not life-threatening), but which will more likely come with great rewards. Wholehearted living means actively shifting our awareness to what we have to gain by taking a safe risk. 

Sometimes staying safe will be the exactly right thing to do, but sometimes we need to fight for that important or meaningful thing by hushing the noise of anxiety and moving bravely forward. 

When children or teens are on the edge of brave, but anxiety is pushing them back, ask, ‘But what would it be like if you could?’ ♥️

#parenting #parent #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #positiveparenting #heywarrior #heyawesome
Except I don’t do hungry me or tired me or intolerant me, as, you know … intolerably. Most of the time. Sometimes.
Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’

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