Becoming Happier Regardless of Chronic Pain
Everyone has heard of the infamous pairing of pleasure and pain. Some feel that the two cannot coexist together; others say you cannot have one without the other. What about happiness? Can someone with chronic pain be happy? Recently, one of my patients whose life is greatly interrupted by the pain from endometriosis told me about her pursuit of happiness. She has committed herself to a year long quest to lead a happier life; a noble quest indeed.
Upon hearing this news, we immediately started a discussion about the right to pursue happiness despite pain. Pain can certainly throw a person off the track, off the planet, or over the edge. So, is it possible to be happy and have pain? I told her about my own quest: sometimes I challenge myself to garner a smile from all of my patients on a particular day. I might tell a funny story or joke. When someone smiles, I know that for that one moment a person has tickled the pleasure pathways deep in the brain. That one moment is a brief encounter with happiness. With the thought of happy moments, this patient has resolved to find many points of happiness and string them together into a safety net high above her underlying pain.
Weaving this "happy net" will take the right tools and a plan. When I asked about her strategy, she told me about a helpful blog that she found called the Happiness Project. So, I checked it out. Immediately, I was impressed with what I saw. Great tips, great ideas, and a plan for action; now, I know that my patient's happiness project has a great chance for success. In fact, I just might join her. Heck, everyone can probably use a little more happiness. Just look at the potential areas of improvement: energy, love, work, money, mindfulness, order, spirit, fun, parenthood, friends, and attitude (just to name a few). That is an ambitious list to tackle. However, with baby steps, the mountain of happiness is not insurmountable.
Sitting high atop the mountain of happiness might just allow pain and other problems look smaller for even just a moment. My patient has eagerly starting her long climb. I wished my patient well as she left my office and got her permission to share her story. She hopes that others may follow her in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is a great gift to give yourself and others.
After my patient left, I started to think about my own happiness. Wishing to give myself a gift, I found this very helpful post:
I can definitely relate to these mistakes and am guilty of all. In 2010, I hope to work on this and many other areas to improve my sense of being happy because just telling myself "don't worry, be happy" does not work. First, I will start by creating a happy moment. Happiness is: sitting by the fire with my current book ("the art of racing in the rain") surrounded by all my dogs and my favorite husband. Please share your favorite happy moment and start the pursuit of happiness.