Have you ever noticed how people talk about sickness and health in terms of combat and warrior analogies? We’re battling chronic illness, beating depression or losing the fight to cancer.
In a way, that makes complete sense. When you’re in pain and exhausted to the bone, everyday living can really seem like a quest from a Tolkien novel. Something as simple as grocery shopping suddenly feels like an expedition to Mount Doom.
For many many years, I turned to heroic stories to fuel my motivation, to strive for recovery, to keep reaching for my dreams. And it worked. With the ‘help’ from Buffy, Sydney Bristow and G.I.Jane (I’m clearly a nineties girl), I passed my high school exams against all odds, despite not being able to attend classes. Epic journeys like Lord of the Rings pushed me to get fit and mobile enough to explore the world, while survivor stories from Chris Ryan and Bear Grylls inspired me to keep going.
But now that I’ve learned so much more about the impact of your mind on your body, and how your nervous system works, I’m not so sure any more that the ‘spoonie warrior’ analogy is always the best choice.
This blog post contains some affiliate links to resources you may find useful, at no extra costs to you. All opinions are my own.
You know how they say that laughter is the best medicine? As frivolous as that may sound, there actually is some truth in that.
Research confirms that having a strong sense of humor helps you live longer, even if you have poor health. That’s because laughter releases endorphins that boost your mood and counteract the negative effects of stress, like compromised immunity. Even better, these feel-good chemicals raise your ability to ignore pain, making genuine laughing a fun tool to manage chronic pain.
Laughing out loud also supports your heart health, by increasing your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood as well a lowering your blood pressure. And let’s not forget how humor lightens your burden, strengthens your relationships and helps you deal with distressing emotions.
These benefits are no joke, so why aren’t we laughing and smiling more?
Making a relationship work is hard enough when both partners are fit, but things can become complex when one or both people are suffering from a chronic illness. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to maintain a strong relationship while also maintaining your wellness. In this article, we will look at tips on how to achieve physical wellness and how to maintain mental wellness.
This blog post contains some affiliate links to products you may find useful, at no extra costs to you. All opinions are my own.
Experiencing joy and feeling sick every single day – that sounds like a huge contradiction right?
You’re right, there’s nothing fun about chronic illness. Being exhausted and in pain, having serious symptoms, not being able to do the things you love, it all sucks the joy right out of your day.
And yet, joy is a more powerful emotion than we give it credit for.
When you’re having fun, feel passionate or burst out laughing, your brain receives a signal to release dopamine and serotonin. These ‘happy hormones’ causes reactions in many other parts of your body, like a racing heart from excitement or butterflies in your stomach. Through this chemical process, joy boosts your immunity, reduces stress and pain, improves your heart health and makes it more likely to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that even a fake smile can trick your brain into a better mood and lower stress levels.
So when you think of it, you actually need more positive emotions like joy now that you are sick. Not just to support your health, but to counteract all the negative experiences you’re dealing with. According to the happiness ratio concept, you need 3 positive emotions for every negative one in order to feel good, physically and emotionally. (Ok, the exact ratio is criticized but not really important – the idea that you need plenty of positivity in life for a healthy balance is).
Making room for joy in your day is not a luxury, it’s a necessity for your wellbeing.
Sounds great, but how can you cultivate joy when you’re chronically ill or experiencing other kinds of hardship?
The first thing to realize, is that you can be sick and hurting and experience moments of joy at the same time. Feeling happy and excited or having fun does not mean that you aren’t seriously ill. It means you were able to put your pain aside for a little while to enjoy life too. These conflicting emotions can coexist. Filling your days with more laughter and more fun activities is not selfish or frivolous – you’re simply trying to live a full life despite your illness (and work on your health in the mean time!).
Even on bad days, you can try to find joy in your senses, from cherishing a good piece of chocolate to listening to your favorite song. You can find joy in playfulness, getting silly and laughter. It isn’t easy, but looking for the humor in every situation can be a helpful coping mechanism. You can even find joy in accomplishments, like putting in a day’s of hard work or overcoming challenges.
Whatever sparks joy for you, make sure your sprinkle more of these simple pleasures throughout your day. I highly recommend making your own happy list to cultivate positivity when life’s tough.
And perhaps the 15 joy quotes below will give you some inspiration – or at least put a smile on your face today.
This article is written by Avery T. Chronic illness is broadly defined as a condition lasting more than 1 year and requiring ongoing medical attention. Whether it be mental or physical (or a combination of both), many Americans live with chronic illness—40% to be exact. Chronic illness often presents a variety of challenges, but what … Read more >
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