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6 skills of happiness help teens live
a more positive life
(BPT) How would you describe happiness?
You may have trouble putting it into words, but
you know you want it for yourself and your loved
One thing that¡¯s harder than describing it for
many people is knowing how to achieve it.
Researchers studying social emotional well-being
define happiness as a balance: the combination of
how frequent and robust your positive emotional
experiences are, how gracefully you recover from
difficult experiences, and how meaningful and
worthwhile you feel your life is overall.
¡°Happiness is the ability to consistently recognize
that life is good, even if it¡¯s difficult,¡± says Dr.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science direc-
tor of the Greater Good Science Center at the
University of California Berkeley. ¡°It¡¯s being able
to identify and enjoy the positive times but also
have resiliency to bounce back from the hard
This is particularly important for youth. Re-
search shows two out of three American teens
are stressed and many don¡¯t know how to cope.
When school is in session, teens are the most
stressed group in the country. The inability to
reduce and cope with stress and anxiety can
negatively impact different facets of a teen¡¯s life
including their health, friendships, relationships
with parents and academic performance.
To help further the idea that happiness skills must
be learned, Simon-Thomas identified six Sustain-
able Happiness Skills, which provide the founda-
tion for a new initiative called Life¡¯s Good: Ex-
perience Happiness, which helps bring scientific,
evidence-based tools and sustainable happiness
skills directly to young people across America.
Backed by 70 years of scientific research showing
that happy people are healthier, live longer, earn
more and do better in school and life, the plat-
form aims to reach, teach and increase sustain-
able happiness.
Happiness is associated with several positive
health effects, according to the Journal of Hap-
piness Studies, including less insulin resistance,
better sleep, higher HDL cholesterol levels and
less reactivity to stress. Additionally, teens who
identify as happy are more creative, helpful and
Research has also shown that happy kids do bet-
ter in school. Happy learners remember informa-
tion better and happiness is positively associated
with GPA. The research also shows that schools
that teach happiness skills outperform schools
that don¡¯t, and typically experience dramatic
drops in bullying, absenteeism and discipline is-
sues. They also see impressive gains in student
engagement, optimism, test scores and executive
the immune sys-
tem is stimulat-
ed, again leading
to brain chemis-
try changes. The
resulting inflam-
mation can also
cause the blood-
brain barrier to
become leaky,
thus allowing
even more toxins
into the brain.
Believe it or not,
bacteria in the
gut plays a role
in mood. Re-
search is show-
ing that ¡°dysbio-
sis¡± or alterations
in the good and
bad bacteria in
our gut can
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Health & Nurturing
actually influence how we feel. Eliminating food al-
lergens, healing leaky gut and restoring balance to
gut bacteria commonly helps mood and energy.
Hormone imbalances or deficiencies are very com-
mon causes of disrupted brain function. Undiag-
nosed low thyroid equals brain fog and fatigue.
High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, will
cause anxiety and sleep disturbances. After years
of being overly taxed, the cortisol levels will plum-
met leading to fatigue and more severe anxiety.
Low sex hormones normally found in aging
men and women will usually cause fatigue, low
stamina, and very often symptoms of depression,
anxiety and insomnia. Many women suffer from
pre-menstrual symptoms of anxiety, irritability and
poor sleep due to estrogen dominance. Replacing
hormones, or fixing the reason they are out of bal-
ance, cures the symptoms.
Even the fat storage hormone, insulin, can play
a role in how one feels. High insulin spikes after
meals will cause fatigue and brain fog. How many
of you have noted the ¡°food coma¡± experienced
after a huge meal. Imagine feeling that way after
most every meal.
Chronic infections can cause inflammation and
changes in brain function. As an example, Lyme
disease is far more common than credited, ter-
ribly under diagnosed, and will cause all sorts
of neurologic symptoms, including fatigue and
mood changes. Even the ubiquitous fungus called
Candida that is normally present in all of us can
¡°overgrow¡± and cause mental symptoms.
We are awash in a sea of environmental toxins and
heavy metals that are well known to disrupt meta-
bolic, hormone, immune and neurologic function.
We find them everywhere ¡ª in our food, air, water,
and countless consumer products. If you touch,
taste or smell it, you are getting a blood level of
it. Testing and removing heavy metals is fairly
simple. Avoiding toxic chemical exposures and
doing a periodic cleanse and detox can effectively
remove these brain-disrupting toxins.
Nutrient deficiencies can influence brain func-
tion and energy levels. Despite eating well, many
people have low levels of specific vitamins or min-
erals. Certain medications, aging, or health
problems pre-
dispose some
to this problem.
Measuring a
wide variety of
nutrients is as
simple as get-
ting a blood test
that can alert
you to the need
for extra sup-
Our mood is
also in our
genes. In recent
years we¡¯ve
learned that we
all have millions
of genetic muta-
tions called ¡°sin-
gle nucleotide
or SNPs (pro-
nounced snips).
Some of these
SNPs influence enzymes that play a role in pro-
duction of the chemicals that give us energy or
influence how the brain functions. From depres-
sion to mania to schizophrenia, SNPs are playing
a role and can be compensated for with targeted
nutrition and supplements. Just last week I had a
patient improve her fatigue by using the results
of her genetic testing to guide her to a simple
change in the type of B12 supplement she was
Of course lifestyle habits need be addressed in
treating fatigue and mood disorders. Like clean-
ing up the diet, improving behaviors will influence
how we feel. Get exercise every day, even just
walking for 30 minutes. Have good sleep patterns
such as getting to bed early, getting up at the
same time every day, and allowing for plenty of
time to sleep. Manage stress, which means avoid-
ing toxic drains including people or situations that
cause distress. Each of these is just as important
as our medical interventions.
(Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the
American Board of Family Practice and the
American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative
Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone
replacement for men and women, thyroid and
adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other com-
plex medical conditions. He is founder and medi-
cal director of the Integrative Medicine Center of
Western Colorado ( and Bellezza
Laser Aesthetics ( Call
970.245.6911 for an appointment or more
In Harmony
by Scott Rollins, M.D.
Calm but not Fatigued
We all want to be in the mental ¡°zone¡± ¡ª you
know, between having plenty of energy yet
feeling calm and relaxed.
For so many of my patients this seems to
be a paradox. Seeking that morning ¡°get up
and go¡± energy with caffeine or sugar, feeling
anxious and unsettled throughout the day, and
finally collapsing after work with no energy
left to exercise or enjoy the evening. Then,
despite being exhausted, sleep does not come
easy. The next day, they repeat the cycle.
Take heart because help is available. The key
is figuring out what drives this wide range of
feelings. A functional medicine approach will
typically uncover the underlying issue and it¡¯s
not usually as obvious as it might seem. Like
a ¡°sleuth¡± on the trail of a crime, we look for
clues; and while some are in clear sight, oth-
ers are more hidden.
We start our investigation with the easy stuff.
Is the diet quality less than desired? Cut out
all sugar and processed foods. Avoid excess
caffeine and alcohol. Simply eat a whole-foods
diet based on fruits and veggies with limited
amounts of grains and animal fats. Sometimes
just changing the fuel we put in the body is all
that is necessary.
But, even healthy foods can be an issue if
you have food allergies ¡ª not the kind that
will give you an immediate symptom, but the
¡°delayed¡± allergies that will cause a response
12-72 hours later, thus being sneaky and
defying easy identification. For example, when
I eat pork I feel bad the next day, noting im-
patience and difficulty multi-tasking. Checking
for delayed food allergies is done with a simple
blood test.
¡°Leaky gut¡± occurs when cells that line the gut
literally pull apart, opening the pathway for
undigested foods, bacteria and toxins to slip
right through the gut wall whereupon the
Don¡¯t Worry, Be Happy