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I’m 19 and I’ve lost my sparkle for life. How will I ever get it back? | Dear Mariella | Life and style

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The dilemma I’m a girl, I’m 19 and I never get excited about anything. It’s been years since I’ve felt that sparkle, even though I’ve done things and been to places that I really liked and that changed me in a positive way.

My bucket list in life is very long and full of diverse activities and trips, but I never seem to enjoy that much when I’m doing it. I usually only realise how good it was afterwards, and I feel lucky about what I had experienced, but my heart never beats fast.

Friends get excited over small and silly things (and God knows it’s healthy, I am not judging) while I keep getting bigger chances than them and never feel that good. I do realise I’m lucky to have a supportive and wealthy family, and many friends. I am even good looking.

I’ve been depressed last year, and even though I am much better now, it seems to me that the only thing missing is the step from “glad” to “excited”.

Will I ever feel the sparkle again? If I don’t now, will I when I am old?

Mariella replies Even before! And you don’t need to sit around twiddling your thumbs and waiting for divine intervention; you can get cracking on reviving that sparkle right now. This is a common problem, increasingly so among younger people, and although it can often be linked with clinical depression it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve just lost sight of the things that make you happy.

For the clinically depressed or terminally myopic it can be hard to separate the challenges faced by others from our own near-the-knuckle woes. When you wake up in the morning and find you’re not moved by birdsong, or moved to tears by the sight of an old couple holding hands, or a kid touching sand for the first time, it’s a good thing to start looking for what’s afflicting you.

I’m so sorry to hear that your capacity for pleasure is so depleted, but you need to understand that what you describe as being lucky isn’t the pass to happiness you assume it to be. There’s nothing wrong with failing to use your privilege as a weapon against joylessness: the two are closer linked than you might imagine.

You say your parents are wealthy, and perhaps that’s an issue here. I’ve always wondered how my work imperative and, through it my enjoyment of life, would have fared if I hadn’t needed to make a living and step far beyond my comfort zone in order to do so. There’s a frisson of danger that you can’t easily conjure up when jeopardy is not a paycheck away.

First, though let’s talk about that depression which can’t be discounted as a considerable contributing factor for your malaise. You don’t tell me whether you’ve been treated for it, but I would strongly recommend that you do talk to a professional – contact your GP, or Mind (mind.org.uk) and make sure you have a support system in place. Depression is an epidemic that recognises no socio-economic borders and no matter how #blessed you feel it can seize you in its grip.

That said, as I mature (disconcertingly speedily) and become an irritating know-all, I’m increasingly conscious of the failure of my generation to instil resilience in our children. Don’t get me wrong, my friends, acquaintances and colleagues have offered spectacular opportunities to their offspring: helicopter-parented them through exams; filled in their college forms; scrimped and saved to supply a deposit for their first flat; and endeavoured to be there for them through every pitfall and passion project, every friendship failure and broken heart. And guess what? It could be that we’re causing equivalent damage with our goodwill as was inflicted by the neglect and ignorance of previous generations’ parenting.

It seems to me that because we parents haven’t got a clue, we’re frequently over-compensating for a perceived absence of care in our own pasts that may actually have been a blessing. I wonder if my generation’s sustained efforts to bring our children up in the protective circle of our embrace has left too many kids, like you, struggling to work out how to find their own pleasure in the world.

There’s one good reason to seek joy in life and that’s simply because you are lucky to be alive – and the challenge is what best purpose to put your time to. Look around, step beyond your comfort zone, delve deep into issues you might not have thought about engaging with and don’t imagine that just because you’re surrounded by privilege you are churlish for not being happy!

When you find your own priorities in life you’ll understand how subjective they are. Life will always have its ups and downs so when you lose sight of the sparkle it’s time to change your perspective and look further afield for inspiration. There’s a big, wide world out there that you can make an impact on, but right now small steps towards discovering your purpose are all you need to worry about.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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‘Arm yourself with facts’: four ways to help convince your parents to ditch the dairy | Parenting your parents

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We are gathered here today to say goodbye to your parents’ milk dependency. But as your parents may have mentioned when thinking about your early years, weaning can be a slog. The tantrums, the suspicious looks, the flat-out rejection. Patience and a steely will are key, as is an ability to remain calm and stay focused on the end goal.

But, as with a baby tentatively tasting their first stewed apple or mashed sweet potato and cooing with satisfaction, watching your parents experiment with a vegan lifestyle can be exciting beyond your wildest dreams. Perhaps you’ve caught them eyeing your dairy-alt latte and sneaking a cheeky bite of your jackfruit bolognese. Or you’ve walked into the room to find them scrolling through vegan recipe ideas on Pinterest, and you’re sure your oat drink is mysteriously disappearing from the fridge faster than usual.

You’re not a preachy kind of vegan, but you know the diet works for you. You’ve done all your homework about the nutritional balance that it’s important to find. And you’re very clued up on the environmental and ethical arguments. But how do you know if your parents are really ready? And what’s the best way to approach getting them on board? Here’s your handy guide to weaning your parents off dairy …

Be responsive to their cues
Nobody likes being caught off-guard or, worse still, ambushed. Your job, first, is to observe your parents. Have they just finished a work call and emerged from “the office” (the spare room) looking flushed and scowling? Not a good time. Or returned from the shops empty-handed because they forgot their face covering? Back away slowly.

Instead, maybe the weekend is a better time. Offer to make them a latte while you’re making yours. Or better yet, don’t even ask. Just quietly place a beautifully foamed hot drink in front of your dad while he’s reading the paper. Even the most die-hard dairy lover would find it difficult to refuse something lovingly prepared by their offspring.

Milk bottle surrounded by nuts and fruit



Arm yourself with the facts
Before your parents weaned you as a baby, they read books, they researched, they asked others for advice. Now it’s your turn to take the same approach with them. It won’t help your cause if you’re not confident when they quiz you on fortification and you draw a blank.

And speaking of vitamins and minerals, some dairy-alt drinks are fortified with important nutrients such as vitamins D and B12, iodine and calcium, but some aren’t. If you’re vegan you can sometimes miss out on certain nutrients, particularly iodine and B12. So make sure you read labels and choose a plant-based drink that’s fortified – interestingly, organic plant-based drinks tend not to be. Why? “Because fortification is not generally thought of as organic,” says nutritionist Dr Harriet Holme. “Lots of people think that organic is better, but organic plant-based drinks are not fortified with calcium. A lot of the range from Oatly has calcium in it, but iodine has recently been added too.” According to Holme, if you eat dairy, fish and eggs you’re pretty much sorted for iodine, but as a vegan your sources are limited.

Vitamin D is another big one, not just for vegans but everyone, especially in the winter months. Foods fortified with this essential vitamin use either vitamin D2 or D3 but, according to the Vegan Society, vitamin D3 is sometimes derived from an animal source such as sheep’s wool. So check food and drink labels to be sure. Are your vegans-in-training likely to quiz you at this level of detail? Maybe not, but you never know.

Assure them veganism is a real thing
Humans are curious by nature, and your parents are no different. So all this talk about veganism is likely to have caught their attention – even if they’re still a little unsure about it all. Point them in the direction of a survey by finder.com, which shows that the number of vegans in the UK is estimated to have increased by 419,000 (62%) in the past year – if this doesn’t convince them that veganism is a real thing, we don’t know what will.

Teach them how to make the perfect dairy-alt hot drink
Keep in mind that your parents are new to this, so help them get to grips with the art of making the perfect dairy-alt hot drink. Often, a lovely cup of coffee or tea can be ruined by the separation that can happen when plant-based drink is added to a piping-hot cuppa. This will cause an unnecessary setback to your mission, so do your research before you start – word on the street is that oat- and hemp-based drinks don’t tend to curdle.

And now that you’re armed with all the knowledge in the world, there’s a good chance that before long your parents won’t even give dairy a second glance when they’re doing the weekly shop.

Good luck!

Need help talking to dad about plant-based drinks? Visit oatly.com/helpdad


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Killer sudoku 746 | Life and style

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Normal sudoku rules apply, except the numbers in the cells contained within dotted lines add up to the figures in the corner. No number can be repeated within each shape formed by dotted lines.

Buy the Guardian or subscribe to our Digital Edition to see the completed puzzle.


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Prize crossword No 28,350

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