Happiness can be an elusive concept if you’re not consciously working toward it. Quick – ask yourself when you last felt happiness? Hopefully, you can identify something that made you laugh, or a warm conversation that boosted you one afternoon. However, if you feel as though you’re unable to lift your spirits doing things that usually make you happy, and nothing makes you smile anymore, those are signals you may need professional help for dysthymia or depression.
Let’s shift back to happiness. Are there times as a caregiver when you don’t feel it’s okay to be happy? Do you ever feel guilty or pause and tell yourself that someone else has it worse than you do? It’s important to not compare ourselves with others, and undeserved guilt can hold you hostage.
Caregivers are often so hard on themselves that even when time becomes slightly more available, you don’t dare to be happy. Well-being is an intentional shift to more positive thoughts and fewer negative ones. While easier said than done, happiness really is a choice. Did you know that when you learn to redirect your thoughts to the positive, your brain will physically develop new neural connections? With time and practice, happiness can become your default mindset. The Happiness Advantage book by Shawn Achor is a great reference and easy to read.
Happiness can be promoted by eating properly and ensuring your body has sufficient Vitamin D, obtained through food, supplements, and synthesized from sunlight. Millions of people are Vitamin D deficient and during the winter, lack of Vitamin D is linked to SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Exercise is a classic boost for endorphins and feel-good hormones, and a great step toward more restorative sleep. The American Psychiatric Association has found exercise very helpful even when used as a stand-alone therapy for depression! Combined with talk therapy, there is value in the physical activity, and for the accomplishment.
As you dare to focus on yourself and the potential of happiness, we come once again to a powerful means of viewing life with a brighter perspective: appreciation and gratitude. Consider the people and situations you’re grateful to have in your life. Keep a gratitude journal, note thoughts on your smartphone, and recall that “how you feel is how you see the world”. The head follows the heart, so it’s important to share thoughts of appreciation and thankfulness.
Take time to consider how you fit activities, connections, or moments into your life. Dare to be happy, and recognize that caregiving is only part of who you are. In changing your mindset, it’s very possible that you’ll positively influence others around you. Take a chance, and dare to be happy -- then make it a habit!
Linda Kreter & the