Sunday, 9 February 2014

Happy me, happy you!

What is happiness?

Just like Gretchen Rubin in her book, 'The Happiness Project', I find the same problems in trying to find one set definition of happiness. There are so many perspectives, from religious to spiritual to biological and not all of them would even be helpful to my circumstances.

I've decided to keep it simple and just remember a time I felt happy and seek out more of that feeling. I know for me I feel it primarily in my heart and it spreads through my body like a warm light. I wonder what your happiness feels like? I suspect it could be different for everyone, like most things are.

I came across research on what is true happiness, the one that lasts and is apparently more fulfilling, but in line with keeping it simple for now I am concentrating on whatever gives me the above feeling.

Personally, I've noticed I have two types of unhappiness, that I plan to tackle in different ways.

1. Recognising more happy moments

'Happy moments' is a theory of happiness my sister introduced me to a while back. I think the theory comes from all different people, but Nataly Logan put it together and came up with a website where you can track your own happy moments. The website link is (You can follow me under 'Happy Me'). The theory is basically that everyone has happy and unhappy moments and by concentrating on the happy ones, you will feel more happy. You can watch a more detailed description here.

I feel this will help me recognise that I don't feel unhappy every single moment and that people who are fully healthy don't feel happy every moment. I suspect my happy moments may be quite different from most people's, as when you are lying in the same bed day in day out, you obviously don't have the same experiences. My Mum once said to me that I will be happy in a different way than before. I think that's true.

2. Becoming more happy overall

However, even when well I haven't always been happy. This leads me to my second type of unhappiness and highlights my problem with the happy moment theory. I often find I have a strange undercurrent of unhappiness, or dissatisfaction with how things are. It is not depression and like I say, I had it in a milder form when healthy and had everything I wanted. Immediately after a happy moment, I feel this again. I have a feeling this may be more complex to resolve than tracking a few happy moments.....

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lucky ME?

I have been thinking about this idea of happiness a lot over the past week. To be honest, part of it feels quite scary to me! After all, if I try and be happy and can't be, what hope does that give me for the future?

I also cannot give up this idea that being happy is a form of defeat. Like I've given up, completely accepted my condition as permanent and just decided to live with it. I know that isn't true, but I fear that's how people will perceive it and unfortunately I'm currently the type of person who takes other people's perceptions seriously. I see visions in my mind of me being all happy and people thinking I'm more recovered than I am! It is already hard enough to convince people how ill I feel.

But I do feel I'm at a point in my life where I can't do anything else. I feel I am wasting my life, constantly waiting for my recovery. There is also the probably well known fact by now, that happiness can improve your health. If anyone has watched the film 'Patch Adams' you will know what I mean! There are many health benefits studies have found, but the ones I hope to find are increased immune function, shorter duration of illness, reduced inflammatory response, less pain, improved sleep and increased creativity. I am actually secretly hoping by doing this, my health will improve by itself, instead of by this constant searching and pushing approach I have adopted so far.

Obviously I would prefer to be happy and healthy, but I am not depending on health for happiness now, as I used to be healthy and would not say I was particularly happy.

So, the point of this post is that from beginning to research other people who have become happy, I have actually discovered suffering can give you an edge over other people. This may be because suffering is a catalyst for change, or it could be that suffering teaches you the meaning of true happiness.  In the first instance, it could be that you simply recognise how you feel more easily and have more time to think of it. Or on a more interesting note, I read a book called, 'Out of the Darkness: From Turmoil to Transformation' by Steve Taylor, where suffering triggers spiritual changes in a person. It even describes a lady who has ME and has become much happier through 'personal growth'. I plan to look at this more in future posts. In the second instance, there is a book called, 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankl, describing the author's discovery of the meaning of his suffering in the concentration camp.

I often hear of people describing how ME has changed their life for the better after their experience, so this has given me hope. If people can be happy in many types of suffering, as horrendous as it is for anyone living with severe ME like me will know, could it be possible I could too? I plan to ask more people suffering with ME now how happy they are and the main things that work for them........

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Can you really be happy with ME?

At this point in time, I can't say I feel that happy. I have a chronic illness called ME, that leaves me tired every minute of every day. And to top it all off, my fiance left me 3 months ago.

There are so many blogs raising awareness of the condition, learning to live with it, offering tips on coping mechanisms, how to recover and letting off steam. I plan to do none of these things.

If I had written this a few weeks ago, it probably would resemble the above. For five years I have been in a desperate, frantic search to return to health. I still want that. I haven't given up.

However, a recent visit from a local yoga teacher raised a question in my mind. I was describing the usual, well worn narrative of how I got myself into this mess and all the ways I have tried to get out of it (there are many), when she suddenly interrupted and said, 'I haven't heard anything about happiness'.

My initial reaction was, 'Are you crazy? I can't be happy with ME!'. I then became a little annoyed, that somebody expected me to 'live with' this condition and forget all about recovery?

I happened to be reading a book at this time by Katie Piper, called 'Things Get Better', in my attempt to hurry things along to that point. You probably know her story, but she suffered terrible facial burns from an acid attack. In the book, she describes how she found positives in her situation. This really struck a chord with me.

I don't know yet if it is possible for me to do the same, but I really want to be happy NOW. I don't want to wait for this imaginary time it will all be perfect. So I am setting out to see if it is possible that I can find happiness within ME. Will you join me?