There have been some significant changes in my physical experience of life lately. I’ve been putting them all down to my new steroid treatment regime. A not-so-scientific assumption made by me. You see, my improvement is rather a lot better than can be explained by my protocol. It doesn’t make good scientific sense, hence the terms ‘magic’ and ‘too good to be true’ from my general physician and immunologist. And my attendant happiness is quite over the top, according to my nearest and dearest. It’s not just a surprise to the doctors who have seen me, my husband, kids and best friend are all a little taken back by this new ‘feelgood’ Rach, too. She’s a lot different to the previous Rach. Even though I have been working really hard on maintaining positivity and searching for answers for all these years; this level of happiness has only been in my world since the immune suppression therapy happened.
Today, I received an email from my friend, Sheryn. Attached was this fascinating TED talk by Shawn Achor. He’s pretty famous for his psych research into success and it’s relationship to happiness. You can read more about him here. And you can watch his TED talk below, more than 9 million people have already, so there must be some compelling ideas in there!
Something he said really struck me. See, when you are sick, people feed you platitudes and positive thinking speeches a lot. And it all falls pretty flat. After a while, you even stop responding to them, because those proverbs, or ‘silver lining’ statements don’t actually help much. They just make you feel inadequate for not being able to take them on board. More work, more effort, more trying in an already trying set of circumstances.
Shawn has done extensive research on happiness, and this is what he says about it:
“Happiness is NOT the belief that everything is great,
happiness is the belief that change is possible”.
This, and some of the other things he said in his very entertaining talk, have had me contemplating my state of wellbeing slightly differently. Is it possible that I ‘feel’ better than I can reasonably claim to feel, because I believe that my circumstances are changing? Is all this upsurge of happiness creating a better experience of living in my body? Is it in fact, the reduction of fear for the future? Perhaps, something to do with laying down that burden of believing I am headed down this disastrous path with only one possible outcome. Now, I have other possibilities. Based on my strong response to steroids, we know that my problems are largely auto-immune. An auto-immune aetiology means treatment, treatment means real hope. Real hope breeds happiness, ideas about the future; a sense of buoyancy. Could I be feeling inexplicably better, not only because of the immune suppression, but because I am happy?
It’s something to contemplate. I think we are learning more all the time about the connection between mind and body. I’m not saying that if you are sick you just need to get happy and everything will be alright. Far from it! There are genuine and significant physical reasons for illness. And maybe there are emotional factors that can impact your illness further. Or indeed, your wellbeing. Shawn Achor suggests ways we can improve our mental habits that will lean us into a more positive frame of mind, but I am not sure if being grateful for three things a day, journalling, meditating and performing random acts of kindness would ever swing most of the patients I know into a different prognosis. What I am saying, is that how we feel emotionally is a part of how we feel physically. It’s something I hope to explore more.
How what we feel is connected to how we feel.
For now, despite how unsettling Happy Rach is to those around (!) I am riding the wave. It might dump me at some point, and I’ll probably get sand in my togs and water up my nose. But right now, I’m riding high, surfing that wave of happiness. Can you see me up there on my metaphorical longboard, waving at you with a stupid big grin on my face? Sunshine on my shoulders and wind in my hair. Hope on the horizon…
Because I’m happy.