Focus on happiness
Over the last few months, our first blog of each month has focused on happiness. Studies show that happy people have fewer aches and pains. Happy people have better relationships. Happy people are healthier and live longer in general.
What many people might fail to recognize is that a terminal diagnosis does not mean you can’t be happy. Yes, the shock and stress of the diagnosis are hard. And the disease itself may be painful. But many hospice patients still enjoy life. Often, they enjoy certain moments more because they appreciate them.
But happiness is not automatic. Especially in the context of a terminal or life-limiting illness. However, studies show that it is possible to be happy “on purpose.” So we’re taking time at the beginning of each month to focus on how to do that.
What happiness is
Most of us have an idea what happiness is. You might say feeling satisfied with your life. I might say feeling loved. Scientists describe it as a general sense of well-being. I think most of us would agree with that. In her book, The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as,
“…the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
What happiness is not
Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not about money or beauty or good fortune or success. And even more surprisingly, studies show that it’s not about milestones positive or negative. A study of people business executives and pro athletes who had reached life-long goals showed that they were not particularly happy at all. By contrast, studies of terminal patients have shown that many of them are happier than before their diagnoses.
How to be happier on purpose
We can choose to be happy. Or at least happier. According to research, about 40 percent of our happiness is totally up to us. So we can actually do something to make ourselves happier. That’s really good news! But what do we do?
In part 1 of this series, we gave 5 practical activities to boost happiness. Here are 5 more mood-boosting activities you can try. We hope you’ll implement some of these right away. Let’s start being happier on purpose!
1. Kind Communication.
There are lots of ways to communicate these days. So there’s a lot of communication out there. The problem is, lots and lots of it is not kind. Social media is a hotbed for opinions. And many of those opinions are either met with unkindness or are unkind themselves. The truth is, almost every one of us is at a deficit for kind words.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” We all need a little “soul honey” now and then. It makes us happy. But research also shows that kind words do as much or more for the giver than for the receiver. So our first happiness activity is to write letters of kindness.
- Write a list of people you think could use some kind words
- Put their names on specific days on your calendar
- Write a “K” or write “Kind Communique” next to their name
- When their day arrives, write them a letter with specific, kind words.
- Use an encouraging Bible verse or quote.
- Simply say you’re thinking about them.
- Be thoughtful and sincere
2. Social Media Adjustments.
People who use social media a lot tend to be less happy. We tend to compare ourselves to others. And people tend to post only the “best” moments in their lives. So it’s like we’re comparing our bloopers to their highlight reel. That’s a losing situation.
So if you use social media, think about making these adjustments.
- Schedule time to shut it all off
- Schedule specific times to use social media and only use it during these times
- When you use social media, engage with people you know well–don’t just read posts
- Make it a point to use social media to spread kindness
- Always make sure you find something that makes you laugh!
3. Thought-pattern Redirection.
If you’re like most people, there are times when your thinking patterns can get very negative. These patterns can become habits. And these habits can be very detrimental to your mood. Here’s an activity to try and turn around some of those negative patterns.
- Get a brightly colored pad of paper and keep it nearby throughout your day.
- Try to “catch” yourself in negative patterns like worry, frustration, fear, or self-criticism.
- When you do, pick up the pad and write the opposite of what you’re thinking. For instance, if you’re experiencing fear, write down a scripture like “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) In the beginning, you may need to look up verses or quotes from other sources. Or you may just write down. “There’s no reason to fear,” or just the word, “peace.” You may write several things down, or just one.
- Use this quote or word or words as a meditation to redirect your thinking
- Over time, you will find your thinking patterns changing to a more positive direction.
4. Happy Decorating.
You can get as creative as you want with this one. But it’s based on a simple idea. We think about what we see and hear.
Did you ever run into a favorite friend unexpectedly and find yourself thinking of them and smiling the rest of the day or the rest of the week? Or has something reminded you of a favorite memory and you found yourself reliving it for hours or even days afterward? So why not remind yourself on purpose every day?
- Make a list of people, places, memories, or things that make you happy.
- For each one, find a picture, write a story, make an art piece, etc., to represent that thing.
- Place these reminders around your room, house, etc.
- Surround yourself as much as possible with these items.
- If you’re artistic, this could be a wonderful decorating idea.
- If you’re like me, it’s just to remind you of the best things in life.
- Also, play your favorite music often.
5. Comedic Calendar
Ok, this one is so simple, but again, so powerful. Laughter is one of the most powerful things our mind can do for our bodies an souls. Laughter is a medicine according to the Bible, and scientists agree. But when we laugh, it not only affects our bodies, but it lasts far beyond the moment. So be intentional about making sure you include laughter in your life.
Do you have a favorite funny movie? A favorite comedian? Or maybe you’re just tickled by YouTube cat videos. Whatever it is that makes you laugh, schedule it. That’s right, I said to schedule it.
If you want to be happier on purpose, one of the best ways is to make sure you have time to laugh. Take out your calendar, call your friends and family, and schedule time to laugh together. Subscribe to a funny podcast and listen every day when no one is around. Whatever it takes, make laughter a priority. You’ll be glad you did.
Hospice Care in Victoria, Texas
If you, a friend, or loved one, has been diagnosed with a terminal or life-limiting illness, please do not hesitate to call Crown Hospice in Victoria, Texas today. We are here for you and your loved ones during this difficult time. Our trained and caring staff will answer any questions you have regarding hospice or palliative care. Please call us at (361) 575-5900 today.
Photo by Valeria Zoncoll on Unsplash