Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
Chronic happiness may sound like a rare disease in and of itself, but it's one that’s contagiously embraceable.
It’s easy to lose sight of our blessings, honing in on challenges and hardships instead. But could our approach to disease make all the difference? According to a research article called The Efficacy of Optimism “The manner in which patients perceive positive or negative implications of their illness can influence various psychological consequences.”
It turns out that perception matters, and happiness is realistic even in the face of diabetes and all of its "what ifs." It's true that happy people still harbor negative feelings and emotions—we’re all human after all—but we all have the opportunity for flexible responses to life's challenges.
Living with diabetes can be a total drag at times, but it certainly doesn’t have to be all of the time. Diabetes is difficult for a countless number of reasons, and primarily so because it doesn’t power down—it’s a constant disease chock full of bells and whistles.
What is happiness anyhow?
Psychology Today defines happiness as “a sense of peace or contentedness,” and that “it’s a state of mind, and as such, can be intentional and strategic.” Keep in mind that we all have a “natural set point” or thermostat of sorts with our emotions—a place of comfort that we usually revert back to even in the face of really positive or negative experiences.
Everyday habits and choices can impact our well-being, especially with diabetes. Blood sugars are closely tied with our emotions; family members can often predict numbers based on our emotional expressions.
Do you tend to focus on the good stuff, the bad stuff, the easy stuff, or the hard stuff? Positive changes do, in fact, happen even in the face of some of the most difficult and trying times we go through in life.
Optimism is a wonderful attribute; as Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
What then, are the possibilities when one purposefully focuses on the benefits of their disease? The list is lengthy, but these tend to resonate with most people living with diabetes: healthier eating habits, a stronger body and mind, or a newfound relationship with fitness.
Chronic illness can present as an opportunity to make changes to a poor diet, smoking habits and lack of physical activity. Researchers refer to this concept as “benefit finding,” when a new diagnosis can result in optimal healthy lifestyle behaviors.
According to the Huffington Post, University of California, Riverside researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky says, "Forty percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change." Being consumed with worry and fear when thinking about the future serves to victimize disease instead of embracing it as a potentially empowering experience. Instead we should grab life by the horns now to make positive changes.
No one is perfect and we all vacillate between sinking, floating and swimming. A simple daily practice of positive thought can make all the difference in the world. Happiness can be had on a daily basis in the face of chronic disease — your positive thoughts and actions can expedite the process.