01/01/2013 18:40 GMT | Updated 03/03/2013 05:12 GMT

The Happy Gene


I'm often asked how I remain so cheerful and positive despite ill health. My jovial disposition, confuses people, and in particular baffles doctors and health care officials. It would be very easy to slip into depression and wallow in self pity, bringing everyone down, but I absolutely refuse to let Parkinson's get the upper hand. I find it far more worthwhile to remain cheery, which keeps me going; boosting my family's morale and all those around me. It takes considerably more effort and energy, but determined to always look at the glass half full, I count my blessings, and won't give up. This is not to say that I don't have my down moments. It would be abnormal; in fact rather strange if anyone remained in good spirits 24/7, never having an occasional low period, but most of the time you'll find me with a smile on my face and a funny anecdote to tell!

Several members of my family possess a positive sunny disposition, including my husband, which we've affectionately called: 'the happy gene' for use of a better word, to explain this specific trait. Of course any scientist or doctor will tell you there is no such thing as a 'happy gene', but humour me; just suppose for one moment, that this gene did exist. Would it explain how some people besieged with disaster and tragedy somehow manage to survive and courageously pull through, and thus justify why others have a negative nature and prone to depression? If one could find a way of extracting this 'happy gene' and implanting it in everyone who needs a boost of joyful optimism maybe the world would be a better place. I know this may sound a little crazy, but one can dream, can't one?

We all know that eating chocolate makes us feel good, and I salivate at the sight of a bar of fine chocolate, as I slowly tear open the wrapping, revealing the dark smooth irresistible sweetness that melts in my mouth, leaving me satisfied but wanting just one more square. Yes I admit it; I'm a self-confessed chocoholic! But the good news, I'm sure you've all heard; studies show dark chocolate in particular is good for you. It contains natural compounds, some of which are mood elevating, so the natural endorphins that are released in your brain are responsible for the pleasurable feelings when eating chocolate. Unfortunately, like most foods that are delicious, chocolate contains many unwanted calories, but we can put the blame squarely on the Aztecs, who originally created a ceremonial drink from the cacao bean, which was transformed during the 19th century into the chocolate we enjoy today. Despite my ever expanding waistline, I take this very seriously and diligently eat dark chocolate when ever I can, purely for medicinal purposes you understand!

Have you noticed how some people wake up in the morning naturally grumpy, not able to speak or think straight until they've had coffee, and time to adjust from the world of slumber to a bright new day? Others wake with great exuberance, enthusiastically greeting a new day, full of beans and ready to tackle whatever is on the agenda. I have always been the latter, which begs the question; does this go hand in hand with the elusive 'happy gene'? It would certainly explain my strong fighting spirit, dry British sense of humour and a resolve to stay cheerful whilst battling chronic disease. If you think having Parkinson's is bad; try adding Gaucher disease into the equation, and see how you would fare. I wouldn't wish this horrendous combination on anyone. There are very few people with both diseases, and I believe the number is under 200 in the entire world. I've always told my husband that "I'm special", but being "special" for this reason, I would gladly give up tomorrow!

Is there something inherent that makes some of us naturally happy and positive even in the face of adversity? It cannot be down to one's environment, for you can have several members of one family who have grown up under the same roof and circumstances; some displaying pessimistic morose temperaments which are intrinsic to their character, whilst other members of the family might be total opposites exhibiting positive and joyful personalities. My question remains; is there a "happy gene" that has yet to be discovered?