|My happy husband and his friend, the smiling lamb :)|
I have a theory about happiness. The opportunity to be joyful presents itself time and time again to us throughout our lives. Eventually, with enough life experiences (both good and bad), we have a deeper connection and are less resistant to it. This really struck me as I read Happiness peaks at 85 in MindBodyGreen today. The article suggested that by simplifying life we find more beauty in it and waste less time on things that aren’t important.
My happiness tank is full today, to the brim. By today I am referring to this stage of my life. I am a 41 year old mother of four, a yoga teacher, and a cancer survivor, all three of which are daily reminders of what I have to be happy about.
The first two are within themselves powerful reasons to be happy. But at age 39, prior to the cancer diagnosis, I didn’t feel the same sense of happiness, or maybe it was contentment, that I do now. I wasn’t unhappy but I did sweat the small stuff. Cancer was a powerful teaching tool, reminding me of what really is important in life and a constant reminder to find satisfaction in the little things that made me happy on a daily basis. I now find fulfillment in a smooch from the six year old, the sun melting our Wisconsin snow, and the promise of Madeline Island months ahead.
Science tells us that there is a link between physical health and emotional outlook. We understand that stress leads to a spike in the hormone cortisol which suppresses our immune system. Doctors at Mayo clinic recommend alternative health therapies to cancer patients who are encouraged to find ways to reduce stress through yoga, meditation and massage.
Since becoming a survivor I have incorporated 3 practices that I believe have contributed to my high happiness quotient. No scientific studies to back these up but they are working for me:
1. Do what you love, love what you do. Too afraid to sink my heart and soul into my passion for yoga, I never developed it as a career until I after got cancer. I obsessed over a fear of being criticized and worried about being a credible teacher. Funny how a bout with crazy cancer gave me the confidence to hone my skills in teacher trainings and develop a yoga concept that brings me daily joy. I believe now that like older adults, when life experiences are ugly you become willing to take risks in order to be fulfilled in life. It is similar to learning a handstand, once you overcome the fear factor, life is great even when flipped upside down.
2. Daily meditation: This is a new one and I'm convinced it works. I sneak it in whenever I can and even as a busy mom never feel guilty about it. Pure and simple: there is power in connecting to your breath.
3. Daily writing: This month’s issue of O Magazine has a great article on Optimism. It states, “Cancer patients who talked about their feelings had to schedule fewer doctor visits. “ I didn’t just talk about it, I wrote, blogged, emailed, and texted. I did my best to infuse humor and irony into my cancer journey and perhaps even overshared. But pouring my heart out on paper saved a hell of a lot of money in therapy. And I will always be grateful for those who read, listened, and wrote back. The writing I did then translated into a passion for writing in daily life. Just the practice of jotting down one or two things that make me happy at the end of the day can boost my mood.