14 Feb A letter to Dr. Happy you all must read!
Note: I received this email (sent via The Happiness Institute) just the other day and couldn't help but think that in so many ways it summed up many key principles of happiness and positive psychology. As you'll see, it's not all about smiley happy lovely living but it is about living a good life and finding happiness even in the face of adversity and difficult circumstances. I've published it here with the author's permission and I hope you find it as thought provoking and inspiring as I did…
Dear Dr. Happy,
I enjoy reading your emails every week and the tips that you provide for a happier life.
Just to give you some background information first. I am the mother of two intelligent, funny and gorgeous boys that have a life threatening, genetic condition. Unfortunately the prognosis is quite poor and there is no cure at this stage.
There is lots of research going on, so we have a small glimmer of hope that a cure will be found. I am "lucky" in that my boys are still doing quite well, but slowly deteriorating. As you can imagine, this is like torture for a parent to watch, and to know what lies ahead. We try not to dwell on that too much and try to concentrate on the here and now. Difficult to do at times.
We often go to the Children’s’ Hospital for appointments, and despite our circumstances, I am constantly touched and inspired by the strength shown by parents with other children in a lot worse situations than us. It makes one questions all sorts of aspects of life – just doesn't seem fair, does it?
I have found an inner strength that I didn't know I had, but my situation forced me to do so. I think we all have it, but not many have to tap into it.
I am a bit over it now, but I often feel quite isolated, mainly because my kids can't do all the things other kids do, the main one being sport. I think sport is great as it teaches so many things such as working as a team, getting along with others, which are good life skills. Unfortunately, my boys are missing out on lots of those type of experiences, and we are as parents too. So there is a sense of grieving I guess for all those things we will never be able to do.
Despite this, my boys are happy and have developed other interests, and do get involved in sports at school, and included wherever possible. And we do encourage them to pursue whatever they can and I feel they still can achieve lots of things. Just have to alter ones thinking a bit!
I could go on and on about many things, but I mainly wanted to share some things that I have learnt along the way…
Not sure if all these things help to be happier, but this is what I have found (in no particular order):
• Don't be afraid to seek help – this is a very difficult journey you can't do on your own. Make sure you have someone to talk to, whether it is a close friend, or a psychologist. It is really helpful to talk or sometimes cry, whatever you need. My kids have been seeing a psychologist for the last couple of years, as they have a lot to deal with now and into the future – it has been the best investment and has made a huge difference to them to know they have someone to talk with. My oldest son comes out after a session sometimes and tells me how much better he feels, being able to express his feelings.
• Allow space to express feelings – its ok and normal to feel sad, angry etc – you can't bottle it up and neither can your children. Create a supportive and safe environment at home so they can do so.
• Find joy in the little things – life is very precious. I think I better understand the meaning of life in some ways and don't take anything for granted. To me, the sky seems bluer, the flowers seem brighter – just savour it all!
• Spoil yourself now and then, and do good stuff with the family – go on some awesome holiday if you can, or go to the beach for a day, or just go for a walk, anything like that.
• Love your kids to bits – give them lots of kisses and cuddles! Children are just a joy to have – most of the time!
• Surround yourself with good supportive friends and family – avoid those that aren't. The list gets streamlined very quickly! You find out who your true friends are – not usually all that many!
• Try to help your community and be a part of it – get involved with the kids school, help others.
• Be pro-active and organised – less stressful.
• Surround yourself with good professional people – sounds harsh, but if for example, you are not happy with the doctor, find another one. Its crucial for your children and for you to know that they are getting the best care. Do not be afraid to ask questions or feel intimidated. Educate yourself as much as possible too. Also organisations such as "Very Special Kids" provide great support.
• Follow your intuition and gut feelings – that inner strength I have found make them very strong and clear.
I hope that you read this email and respond, and don't think its just a pile of waffle!
MM (full name withheld on request)
PS: This is obviously NOT a pile of waffle but rather, in my humble opinion, one of the most inspiring and thought provoking letters I’ve received. So much so that instead of writing something myself that might help carers I have, as you can see, just published the letter in its original form (with MM’s permission of course). I hope many others find this inspiring and helpful, whether or not you have sick children or any children at all. It encourages compassion and empathy and gratitude and so much more…so much we can ALL benefit from. So thanks MM…a grateful Dr. Happy
PS: post your thoughts and/or comments with regards to this letter HERE on The Happiness Institute's Facebook Page