I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot lately. Yes, happiness. It might seem a bit odd to be talking about happiness in a blog that relates directly to living with cancer. Ridiculous even. Point taken.
I had cancer a few years ago now and one thing I noticed was that the journey took a lot longer than I thought. Seriously, even the period of diagnosis stretched out months longer than I expected. All of the tests, treatments, and time for recovery meant that the process was a marathon, not a sprint. And through all of it, life goes on for us and those we care about.
Living with cancer can be one of the biggest challenges we face over the course of our lives, but there’s still a place for happiness. If we can help ourselves find small moments of happiness on this journey, we deserve it!
How can we squeeze a bit of happiness out of this strange time of our lives? Heck, maybe “happiness” is too big a goal. Maybe simply “feeling a bit better” is a more realistic target. Either way, there are very simple things we can do to help make it happen.
Spend some time in nature.
Spending time in nature can improve our mood quite dramatically. In a major study, Trent University researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet found that people who spent time in nature on a regular basis felt much happier and, as a bonus, watched less TV.
Do you have to do something dramatic like white water rafting or fly through the air in one of those squirrel suits? No! Spending some time in a park or ravine or on a nature trail will do just fine.
Make a list of things you are thankful for.
Keeping a gratitude journal or even making a list of things you are thankful for can have a very significant impact on how you feel. Again, you might have to dig a bit deeper considering the circumstances, but if you start small you might end up with a pretty good list. For instance when I make a gratitude list, my most recent cup of coffee is usually the first item and then I go from there.
At the University of California at Davis, a study by psychologist Robert Emmons found that having a gratitude journal helped improve the mood of participants and increased their tolerance to pain. Isn’t that something?
So what are you thankful for? Coffee? Lunch? The latest episode of Game of Thrones? Write it all down!
Listen to your favourite music.
Can you name your favourite song? The song that gets you completely cranked up, can pull you out of a dark mood and make you dance like a maniac even if you’re doing your taxes? Me too. I remember being a terrified 13-year-old at the top of a ski hill, playing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in my head to get the courage to ski down.
Music can be a very wonderful tool in helping us to feel happier in our daily lives, moment to moment. According to an article published in The Huffington Post called “The Happiness Habits of Exuberant Human Beings”:
Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 one hour-long massages.
So, feeling a bit down? Play your favourite song. If you’re really ambitious, create a playlist of tunes that makes you feel good. You’ll have a tool that is scientifically proven to help you feel better.
We often think finding happiness is impossible, especially when going through one of life’s greatest challenges. Using even the simplest of techniques (that are backed up by science!) can make this journey a bit easier and have you feeling a bit better along the way.