Where can I claim my reward?

As a sufferer from depression and pretty much unemployed for 2.5 years, I have been feeling a terrible lack of opportunity to be rewarded- either with money or something else I favour. People tell me (and I have started telling myself) not to WANT things. I really do have what I NEED for basic sustenance- sufficient food, a roof over my head, clothing, warmth, a partner, sex, 3 cats and friends. But despite telling myself to concentrate on how lucky I am (ie. think Haitian kids, one of whom I sponsor through World Vision), I have this terribly human trait of WANTING stuff/experiences/different stuff. Well now the people in the labs, those white-coated loonies of popular folklore, have discovered that our brains need enough of a particular substance to actually FEEL rewarded by anything. Not surprisingly, this substance is serotonin, the stuff that your neurons like to bathe in regularly, so you don’t feel depressed. These guys (along with a host of others) found that serotonin was the vital part of the brain’s REWARD system.
Now, how can we get more rewards? Do things and eat foods that increase the free-floating serotonin levels in the brain. There is a lot of bullshit, “natural”, nutrition and New Age claptrap around, but the truth seems to be that foods containing plenty of tryptophan (trip-to-fane) are the go. These are mostly tasty proteiny things like, lean red meat, turkey, chicken, nuts, cheese, beans and pulses (eg. lentils, chick peas). As part of a normal diet, we need to consume these with a little carbohydrate (which is hard to avoid, given the composition of most food)- the more complex ans slower to burn in our systems, the better. So- no added sugar, but good complex carbohydrates such as in vegetables, grainy breads and some fruits. Traditionally they say chocolate and bananas increase serotonin, but they’re better with some protein as part of a meal, not an EXTRA snack on the side! Appropriate fats are good too- mono-unsaturated oils like olive oil, omega 3 and 6 oils like fish oil/some nut oils, and recently some authorities have recommended pure cold-pressed coconut oil (which I find good). There seems to be little about dietary coconut oil, except as an antioxidant– by which the scientists mean that the components of coconut oil roam around our blood stream “scavenging” those things called “free radicals” which seem to age us and may play a role in the beginning of cancer. So even if the virgin coconut oil is not yet proven to help with depression and reward experiences, the mere thought that it’s doing you good may help anyway!
Now, I’m no medical authority, so don’t call me to account for this one, but there were recent reports that a pediatrician (children’s doctor) in the USA was treating her prematurely dementing husband with coconut oil and getting promising results. There is nothing in the conventional medical literature as yet, but I’m waiting with interest.
However, leaders in the field of cognition in ageing caution that there is no clear or longterm proof of the worthwhile use of various oils and other substances in slowing brain decline.


3 thoughts on “Where can I claim my reward?

  1. Here I am commenting on someone else’s blog in my own BUT, I think it’s relevant in a sideways sorta way! If you take alook at this Fifty Links blog, at: http://fiftylinkslater.com/2009/09/13/functional-fixedness-theory-and-misapplication/
    (suggested above as possibly related to my post), you’ll see this guy claiming that on average, people are more productive later in their careers when and if they are on big salaries. I beg to differ. When productivity is measured in contribution to the everyday smooth running and innovation of your company/workplace, the same person is more likely to be at a particular level of productivity throughout their career. Sure they may have small upward blips after a promotion or pay rise, but I don’t think you can get blood out of a stone.
    Moreover, his blog seems to say that it’s possible if you shift companies, you will get more pay when you’re older and also be more productive than when you were younger. The world doesn’t work like that for me and my 50+ (years old) mates- we find after a certain stage of being very productive, if we try to shift workplaces, we get less money, no matter how productive we are. Others, like me, just can’t get a job at all, let alone near their old level, and earn zero dollars (and are zero productive) for the wider economy. We just sponge off middle-income earners and reduce the value of their superannuation.
    So if Mr Fifty Links has a job suited to my particular talents, I’m sure I’d be hugely productive on a low-medium salary and he’d never have to promote me to the higher salary if he didn’t want to, as I’d be happy to have a job where I felt I could contribute in a creative fashion.

  2. Great post Kay,

    I’m glad to read that some of the things you’ve mentioned are included in my diet. I prefer to eat foods that will promote the natural serotonin but as you mentioned, it’s hard to get good carbs all the time with the composition of food.

    And I really agree with your response to the other blog, most people I have known who are 50+ struggle to get higher rates of pay, they also struggle to get their foot in the door in most places. I know if I were running a business, I’d rather have people in that age bracket working for me for a number of reasons. It sounds really tough on you, I really hope you find something. Being productive and being able to buy our ‘wants’ IS important!

  3. Great blog Kay….. very topical for me at the moment…. I have been reading all about Serotonin, and SSRI’s….. I am a strict veggie but eat plenty of pulses, lentils, wholegrains and Olive Oil by the bucketload…. not much of a chocolate lover tho…!

    I know how you feel about being grateful for what we have… and I guess the guilt of wanting more.. (how dare we…) doesn’t help ourpsychological state either…

    But…. Oliver asked for more…. and he got it in the end 🙂

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