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The Lost Art of Being Happy

_doesn't make me happy anymore. Insert your pronoun.  These are words echoed by millions around the world every day, from couples contemplating divorces to people in dead-end jobs and careers. And it's okay. As humans, we are a complex species and as we grow, we change. Things that once made us happy can lose their shine and suddenly become a burden to us. That's fine too. Disclaimer this isn't an article guaranteed to make you happy but hopeful by reading this, you can realize you are not alone and that happiness is within your grasp.   First things first: No one can make you happy but you! (Louder for the people in the back). This is a fundamental truth echoed by psychologists, self-help books, and all the influencers on Instagram. And it's true. While we can find happiness in other people and things, this is often fleeting and personally, I don't consider it true happiness. For that, you have to start from you. Happiness is a state of mind. Like all emotions, happiness is just a combination of chemicals playing tricks on our brain (weird I know.) This leads us to a buzzword - Mental health, have you heard about it? The two are very much interlinked. If your mental state isn't right then happiness stays out of sight. (oh that rhymed). Talk to someone you trust about your problems, be it family or a professional (I highly recommend a professional). Cut out toxic relationships, handle problems as they come, and don't bottle up emotions. Anything to make sure your mental health is as healthy as it can be and those chemicals are mixing right. It's a journey, not a destination. Most people believe that happiness is this magical destination of beauty, light, and everything right (the rhymes just keep coming) and that once you get there you can set up shop, kick back and relax. If it were, I'd hate to see the price listings for the houses. But if this were the case, how come your second cousin Sophia who was on top of the world last week is currently sobbing into your shoulder about how unhappy she is. That's easy. Happiness isn’t a destination or a task to be ticked off a list. It's a journey and like any journey, there are good stretches and then there are Nairobi road sections. If you treat it as a destination or a one-time goal then every time you feel unhappy you will undoubtedly feel like you have failed and that leads to more unhappiness. This brings me to my next point. Sadness is a part of the process. Just because your goal is happiness doesn't mean sadness can't play a role. There is a stereotype that negative emotions are bad and should be avoided at all costs. This is simply not true. Case in point: when people tell you they feel better after a good cry or more scientifically, research that has shown that cursing in anger after feeling pain e.g stubbing your toe, helps lessen that pain (only a little, so don't go cursing up a storm). I choose to believe that this is because letting out these negative emotions in a good way is healthy and cleansing. This allows for the mental space that good emotions can fill up. So yes a good cry or occasionally feeling sad and down is allowed and even encouraged (let's be honest we are all secretly freaked out by perpetually happy people). After all, how can you appreciate joy if you never know sadness? You are enough. To really be happy you need to put yourself first. I once read something, once upon a time, where the author detested the line in the wedding vows about two becoming one. According to her, it made it seem that most people weren't whole or couldn't be whole until they found their partner. While I get the symbolism in a wedding, the implications, in reality, can be a little scary. You are whole by yourself. You are enough. Rather than think of this other person as completing you, think of them more as making a great thing even better. Like a real-life upgrade pack, helping you to achieve even greater heights that you never thought of because all those heights you wanted to achieve? you got there on your own.

Below are some things that help me and, I hope, can help you on your journey of happiness. 

Find something you love and make time to do it - this can be writing, painting, dancing, or solving complex math problems. Find what it is and make time to do it. Even if it's just for thirty minutes every day. Take a walk outside - everyone is different and if you’re like me, sunshine is not for you. I’m a rainy day baby and going outside when there's a slight drizzle makes me super happy (Petrichor - the smell of rain on dry earth. You’re welcome). Find your perfect weather and go outside, be it sunshine or rain or fog. But even if you’re a rainy baby, still make time to go out in the sun (Insert all the health benefits here). Listen to music - music has a way of reaching into our chest and pulling out emotions we didn't know we had or we can’t express. This is a good thing because it can help you cope with and identify unresolved feelings or just change your mood entirely (I dare you to be sad while singing along to Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars). Be creative -  this is not really for everyone. Doing something creative lets our imagination run wild and I've personally found this to be therapeutic in its own right. It allows me to see problems in a new and different way and find creative solutions (see what I did there) for them. Treat your body right - your body is a temple so treat it that way. Taking care of your body will always lead to positive results. Change up your diet by eating filling but healthy meals that incorporate more fruits and vegetables. Pamper yourself and not only after a long, tiring day. Be it by going to a spar or having your very own spa day in your house (this applies equally to men). Exercise. You don’t need to go for the intense gym session. Fast walking or jogging around your neighborhood several times a week does wonders for the body and soul. Also, visit a doctor to get checked out. This is also a part of the process. Treat yourself - Once in a while, you are allowed to buy yourself something just because you like the way it looks or smells, or tastes or because it's cute. And it doesn't have to be super expensive. A  pen, earrings, colorful notebooks, a belt, or a meal. You are allowed to buy something just because it makes you smile and every time you see it after a little shot of happiness will go through you. Don't be afraid to be by yourself - take a day off to just get to know yourself again and re-center. Listen to your thoughts and feelings, and what they are telling you. Keep a journal if you need to, it might help in identifying foreign feelings later in the week. But mainly take this time to know yourself.

The Beautiful Ones – Autism

I was reading a book a while back about a mother with a special needs child. She lamented about how people would see her with her baby and walk up to her with smiles and happiness but this would quickly change to pity when they realized that her baby had Down syndrome. She absolutely HATED this. Reading the comments this was echoed by a lot of other mothers including those with autistic children. They felt that there was nothing wrong with their children that they should receive pity. And they are right.    In Africa, autism is often undiagnosed in children and this leads to cases of children being in situations that one would term as child abuse. It is not uncommon for them to be locked away and hidden at home, beaten severely by their parents for their behaviours, tied up and left alone while their family is out, or be ignored and pushed aside. In many cases, it is associated with curses or witchcraft. It also doesn't help that many clinicians in poorer areas are unable to spot the signs and centres dedicated to autism are few and often very far away.

What is Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. It is mainly caused by mutations in genes. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has different strengths and challenges. How they learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently. Autism can be diagnosed as early as two years in children.

Types of Autism

There are four main types of autism. Asperger's syndrome. This is on the milder end of the spectrum. A person with Asperger's may be very intelligent and able to handle their daily life. They may be focused on topics that interest them and discuss them nonstop. But they have a much harder time socially. Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). This diagnosis included most children whose autism was more severe than Asperger's syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder. Autistic disorder. This older term is further along the autism spectrum than Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. It includes the same types of symptoms, but at a more intense level. Childhood disintegrative disorder. This was the rarest and most severe part of the spectrum. It described children who develop normally and then quickly lose many social, language, and mental skills, usually between ages 2 and 4. Often, these children also developed a seizure disorder.

Below are some facts about autism that you may not know and what it involves.

It affects boys up to four times more than girls. 

This leads to less severe cases being undiagnosed. Young boys are known for being playful, restless, and generally unruly in their younger years so we often do not think too much of their actions as they are just ‘boys being boys. Consulting with a pediatrician is key and so is early diagnosis.

There is no cure.

These are the hardest words to write, Autism has no cure. According to an article published by the CDC; Center for Disease Control and Prevention,currently, no treatment has been shown to cure ASD, but several interventions have been developed and studied for use with young children. These interventions may reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximize the ability of the child to function and participate in the community. It’s no doubt how heartbreaking and painful it is to accept such universal truths regarding the condition. However, with the help and love of their families, as well as support from their providers, doctors, specialists, and communities, children with ASD can learn and succeed in the classroom and life. Chin up Daddy and Mommy! You are doing better than you think. We have a list of Global leaders below who have conquered regardless.

Autism affects children of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. 

There is autism in Africa! Research into autism in Africa has been infrequent and often does not represent all countries. This has made determining its prevalence difficult. Oftentimes only the most severe cases are recorded and treated and this too happens late into a child's development cycle. As African, we often shun things we don't understand and when a child has autism it is not unheard of that they are not accepted by the community or are ‘disciplined’ for being unruly. This is why it is important to frequently consult with a pediatrician after your child is born to make sure that should there be any developmental hurdles they can get the assistance they need in good time. 

There is no medical detection for autism.

This may be the leading problem African has in detecting autism in children. As a continent when something is wrong we go to the doctor, they do tests, give us mediation and we go home. Autism doesn’t fall neatly into these plans. It is often the behavior of the child as well as the comparison of their development against standard developmental milestones that help in diagnosing this disorder. This becomes difficult especially with the lack of professionals with the adequate skills to do so. As of 2016, there was, on average, only one child physiatrist for every four million children in Africa. Feel encouraged that should your child be diagnosed with any type of autism listed above, they are not limited but abled differently just look at the household names who have made it to the top and conquered so will your loved one. Albert Einstein - the famous scientific and mathematical genius. The german born prodigy is famous for formulating the theory of relativity (e=mc^2)  Dan Aykroyd - from the original ghostbusters Bill Gates - The founder of Microsoft and one of the richestment in the world  Tim Burton - the movie director  Steve Jobs - Founder and former CEO of Apple inc. He was also the designer of the shape of the classic iPhones (iPhone 1 - 5) With Love   Zuri Health Media Contact  Leah Mwikali Mwangi  Corporate Communications Manager  leah@zuri.health  0793548442
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