Happiness & Maple Syrup

Written By Robert Hawke
Image of flying moose

So apparently Canada ranked 6th in the world in happiness in a study sponsored by the UN in a Gallup World Poll. Denmark was first. Kudos to the Danes!

Frankly, I thought we were a happier group of people. How could we not be, with our lives awash in maple syrup, hockey and an abundance of moose?

A whole lot of the way this study measured happiness is based on stuff that seems largely out of our control. Here’s a quote:

“Six key variables explained nearly 75 per cent of the variation in national scores: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.”

But really, what about our own point of view? Doesn’t that count? Does this mean that if you just take a bunch of people and put them in Denmark they would be happier? (They might, by the way, Denmark is an awesome place. “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen…” and all that.)

Seriously though, for those of us who have gone through, or are going through, cancer, the UN’s criteria for what we need to be happy is a bit strange. The words “healthy life expectancy” are a bit of a conundrum. When you have “The Big C” dropped into your life, either as a certainty or even as a possibility, your sense of healthy life expectancy can be profoundly shaken. Even years after treatment many of us don’t even want to consider our life expectancy. I don’t. In fact, I avoid it with a passion. It’s just too much to think about.

The question remains, can we be happy with cancer in our lives?

Well, I’m here to tell you…Yes!

I’m not saying that every day we get up and give our mailman a bear hug because we’re filled with joy and happiness. But I am saying that we may be able to find happiness in moments along the way. In fact, I know we can. I did.

I worked in comedy for a long time before I was diagnosed with cancer, and it took me a while to realize that all the laughing I was doing was really helping me heal, in a lot of ways. I would watch movies like Anchorman and Monty Python’s The Holy Grail just to get my mind off of my condition and it was very useful.

Now I bring laughter to other people facing cancer with my "A Spoonful of Laughter" class. For one hour we do improv exercises and laughter yoga. I often see people’s moods actually improving over the course of the 60-minute class. I see body language change. I see folks crack each other up. Sometimes they laugh for no reason at all. It’s infectious. By the end of the class people say things like “I haven’t laughed in months! That felt terrific!”

So, yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus and yes, we can be happy sometimes even when The Big C is part our lives, no matter what the UN says.

For more on the study, check out this CBC link.