Do Healthy. Be Healthy.
Do Happy. Be Happy.
Can you be healthy even when you have cancer? I think so. Health is not a state of lack of disease. Health is the body’s ability to heal, especially in the face of disease.
Happiness and health are forever intertwined, interdependent. Like the mind-body connection, happiness and health cannot be separated. To be happy, we must do happy. To be healthy, we must do healthy. These actions are specific to the daily circumstances, but there are basics.
Making a daily gratitude list is the single most important thing I do to maintain a high happiness level, which in turn is the foundation for a strong immune system. I truly make every day Thanksgiving, and now, living with cancer, I see the proof daily that I am so very lucky, and surrounded by love and support.
I am lucky. I was born with both a higher than average level of optimism, as well as developed a robust level of healthy paranoia. There are dangers, risks, but getting sick is the body’s way of getting well. So I have always thought.
I have taken it as my duty to support my body doing its job in every way I can. This means daily exercises, eating a healthy diet, sleeping 8-10 hours a day, being grateful, and laughing, at the very minimum.
I practice a kind of yoga named Haysa, laughter yoga. The way I practice it (sometimes hourly) is a pranayama, which means it uses the movement of the breath, up and down, to stimulate the nervous system. This movement of the diaphragm also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which aids the body in elimination of toxins. Nothing could be more important than the elimination of toxins when the body is enduring the onslaught of chemo and radiotherapy.
So laughter, whether inspired by funny or just going through the motions, quite literally, is very healthy. If you can make yourself laugh, all the better!
Never underestimate the Power of Silly
Making silly faces in the mirror. Walking a silly walk. Wearing a silly hat or playing with a kazoo, or vuvuzela. I do these things professionally, and have done them therapeutically for many decades. I chose a profession that would lend itself to such frivolity. It is the silly that relieves daily muscular tensions and motivates a healthy breathing that reduces cortisol in the body, enabling deep and restful sleep, because it reduces stress on the body.
Although there is scientific proof to support my happiness practice, all the proof I need is how I feel, both physically and emotionally now. There hadn’t been enough time for the cancer to make me feel sick, but I knew in the last months before diagnosis something was up.
Even with these intense treatments I have had no pain so far, only discomfort. I don’t take this luck for granted, nor do I have any expectation I will never be in pain with this or any other disease.
I have found some simple things I can do to reduce the experience of pain, and I do these things as often as possible every day.
Once you start the breath with laughter yoga the mere act of a smile that includes the muscles of the eyes will reduce stress. Smiling facilitates deeper breathing, and to breathe consciously is a mediation. This will make you feel better for 20 minutes, and another 20 minutes if you do it again.
To live a happy life, regardless the circumstances, I must live my life intentionally, engaging in the habits with fresh eyes and hands, mind and matter. I am trying to reinvent taking care of myself by first treating my body like a newborn.
Do Healthy. Do Happy. Be HEALTHY. Be HAPPY.
So it boils down to if you want to be healthy you must do healthy things and happiness is a powerful medicine. Sure it takes a lot of effort, but I remind myself every day, I am worth it!