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happiness

I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot lately. It might seem a bit odd to be talking about happiness in a blog that sometimes deals directly to living with cancer. Ridiculous even. Point taken. Living with cancer can be one of the biggest challenges we face over the course of our lives, so where  does happiness fit in? Well, I had cancer a few years ago now and one thing I noticed during all of the tests and treatments and time for recovery was that life goes on for us and those we care about. The journey is often a marathon and not a sprint. So, if we can help ourselves find even small moments of happiness or even an afternoon of feeling good on this journey, we deserve it! The big question of course is “How?” How can we squeeze a bit of happiness out of this strange time of our lives? Heck maybe ‘Happiness” is too big a goal, maybe just “feeling a bit better” is a more reachable target. Either way, there are very simple things we can do to help make it happen.

#1 Spend some time in nature.

Spending time in nature has been shown to improve our mood quite dramatically. In a major study, Trent University Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet, found that people who spent time in nature on a regular basis felt much happier and as a bonus watched less TV. Do you have to do something dramatic like white water rafting or fly through the air in one of those squirrel suits? No! Just spending some time in a park or ravine or on a nature trail will do just fine.

#2 Write down a list of things that you are thankful for.

Keeping a gratitude Journal or even making a list of things that you are thankful for can have a very significant impact on how you feel. Again, you might have to dig a bit deeper considering the circumstances, but if you start small you might end up with a pretty good list. For instance when I make a gratitude list my most recent cup of coffee is usually the first item and then I go from there. At the University of California at Davis, psychologist Robert Emmons found that having a gratitude journal helped improve the mood of participants as well as increased their tolerance to pain. Isn’t that something? So what are you thankful for? Coffee? Lunch? The latest episode of Game of Thrones?

3: Your Favourite Music.

Can you remember your favorite song right now? The song that gets you completely cranked up, can pull you out of a dark mood and make you dance like a maniac even if you’re doing your taxes?  Me too. In fact, I remember being 13 years old at the top of a ski hill that I was terrified of and listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in my head to get the courage to ski down.

Once again the benefits of music are backed up by science. Music can be a very wonderful tool in helping us to feel happier in our daily lives, moment to moment.

In an article published in The Huffington Post called “The Happiness Habits of Exuberant Human Beings” they state that

“Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 one hour-long massages.

So, feeling a bit down? Play your favourite song or if you’re really ambitious create a playlist of tunes that makes you feel good and you’re well on your way to having a tool that is scientifically proven to help you feel better.

We often think about finding happiness as one of those things that might be impossible especially when going through one of life’s greatest challenges, but by using even the simplest of techniques (that are backed up by science!) we can just maybe make this journey a bit easier and feel a bit better along the way.