Someone Asked, "How Do You Stay Happy?"

A frequent question that people, particularly those who are newly diagnosed, ask is "how do you stay happy every day when you have cancer?" It isn't always easy, that's for sure. But, it is doable.

Choose to be happy

Doesn't that sound like simple advice? I wish it was as easy as just deciding to be happy...and having it happen. But, you know, I believe that you canchoose to be happy. I think it is a mindset, a decision. I'm not saying it is easy, but I believe it is possible.

When your "happy" just can't be found, here are some ways that you might try to retrieve it. Please add your own suggestions in the comments below.

  1. Try singing. Out loud. It doesn't matter if it is in tune or not. Just sing. (I googled "Happy Songs" and clicked on Top 65 Happy Songs ... see what you think. I'm thinking someone has a different idea of "happy" than me! I mean, really! The song that came to my head when I first thought of singing happy songs was a little ditty called, "I've Got Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in My Heart. Now THAT'S a happy song! (Disclaimer: Christian children's song.)"If You're Happy and You Know It" is another one I like. Do you see a theme? I like the kiddie happy songs!
  2. Whistle. Can you whistle and cry at the same time?
  3. I was feeling really low yesterday. I found that all I wanted to do was cry. I started watching movies on Amazon Prime. They took my mind off of my own troubles for a while. I chose to watch drama, but lots of people recommend comedy. Can you watch this Tim Conway video without at least smiling?

Seek out gratitude

It is really difficult to stay sad when you are listing the things for which you are grateful. Try it. Today, I was trying to list three things for which I am thankful. I dwelled on it for a bit, actually, before I came up with these three:

  • Chilly weather. (I live in Texas where the sun scorches the earth much of the year so I always appreciate lower temperatures.)
  • The best friend a person could ever have. (This one is huge. I don't have very many people in my life that I can call true friends, but the ones that are mean more to me than I can say.)
  • A good night's sleep last night.

Have you heard of a Gratitude Jar? It is a simple, but powerful, concept. Dwell on what is positive in your life right now. It can be small (a warm chocolate chip cookie) or it can be really big (a new grandbaby). It doesn't matter what it is, just that it makes you happy, brings a smile, makes you realize that everything in life is not bleak.

Write those things down and put them in a jar or a box or somewhere that you can go to pull them out once in a while and revisit them. I think you will find that as you focus your brain on the positive things in your life, the negative will lose some of its power.

Some say happiness is over-rated

Some people say that they don't choose to seek happiness. I think it might be a definition problem because they usually do desire to find security and/or contentment. So, maybe "happy" is simply not the right word choice.

When I think of happiness, I don't necessarily think of laughter or even smiling. I think of a light heart, satisfaction, contentment, looking at the bright side of life rather than dwelling on the dark. For me, happiness is the opposite of walking around feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

Through the negative, focus on gratitude

You see, every one of us, with or without cancer, has plenty of negatives in our lives. A lot of us hurt. We're sick from our treatments. We're scared. Bills are piling up. Some, like me, have just lost a loved one. Oh gosh. There innumerable things for us to worry and fret and cry over.

But, it can nearly always be worse. There is always someone who has it worse. I was teary-eyed over the recent and sudden loss of my son. Then, I read a post on Facebook from a grandmother who is fighting lung cancer and whose 14-year-old granddaughter had just committed suicide. Heartbreaking.

There is always something for which to be grateful. I thank God every day for my warm home, comfortable bed, friends, family, faith, pets ... sometimes, just the very fact that I opened my eyes this morning.

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