Some people might think that the emphasis on happiness is overrated – that happy people don’t have any problems or they live particularly blessed lives. Those who think happy people never face troubles are misguided. I think happy people make a choice to be that way. The reality of life is that we ALL have troubles, hardships, difficulties, and heartbreaks. Subsequently, we ALL have a choice to make. Will we cave to the problems and allow them to dictate how we will live our life? Or do we tell the problem that it is not in charge of our emotions and we instead choose joy?
In the April, 2012 issue of Woman’s Day magazine, Joel Osteen suggests five ways to look on the bright side of things. I thought these ideas are particularly relevant for cancer patients (or anyone faced with a serious illness), so I’ve added my own suggestions to go along with his key point:
- Find the gift in each day. As cancer patients, each day is a gift in itself. No matter how hard your day is, I promise, if you look for it, you will find at least one teeny tiny gift placed within the package of that day just for you. It’s there. Keep your eyes open for it. If you spend time looking for the gift, you aren’t spending time dwelling on the bad stuff.
- Don’t give away your power. This one is huge. Do not give your power away to the cancer. The cancer is not in charge of your happiness. The cancer is a circumstance you are faced with, but it cannot steal your joy unless you allow it to.
- Know whom to ignore. Whether it’s a person or the voice in your head telling you that you can’t beat this disease, some things need to be ignored in order for you to be happy. Fighting cancer requires an incredible amount of emotional energy as well as physical endurance. You cannot afford to have your happiness resources depleted. Surround yourself by people who will encourage and support you.
- Be a victor, not a victim. When you are diagnosed with cancer, it is incredibly easy to adopt a victim mentality. The urge to sit back and wallow in self-pity asking “why me?” is super strong and if we aren’t careful, it will win out. That’s why it’s important to focus on and celebrate the victories that come throughout treatment. A good treatment experience, a great CT scan, a day without feeling sick – these are all victories. Don’t focus on what it has taken from you. Focus on what you are doing to it – destroying it and kicking it to the curb!
- Celebrate other’s success. This one is huge and I’ve found it to be a great way to stop thinking about me, me, me all the time and really bring on some happiness. Celebrate the success of other cancer patients. Milestones are huge to each patient and the more energy you put into enjoying and celebrating another patient’s success, the less time you have to feel sorry for yourself. Not only will you make that person feel good, you will also feel good and happy.
Happiness is a positive emotion and as Florence reminded me this week, positive emotions help to boost the immune system and promote healing. Us cancer patients need all the promoted healing we can get, so if happiness is one way to make that happen, I (and Bobby McFerrin) say don’t worry, be happy! ;)