Carol Cummings, RN, BSN, Expert on Aging Well

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21 March 2016

Choosing Happiness

The vernal equinox took place this past Sunday. It is a moment in time that marks a change — a “tipping point” if you will — that means things are going to be different from now on. We will have new angles from the sun which means longer days and warmer temperatures. New things will blossom, birds will sing a new song, and we will once again be reminded of the certainty that winter does not have the last word.

Designed to coincide with the Vernal Equinox, is the UN’s International Day of Happiness. About this day-the UN states on it’s website:

“What is the International Day of Happiness? It’s a day to be happy, of course! Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.”

The UN makes the point that we must counterbalance the difficulties in the world with a deliberate attempt to bring happiness and peace to our lives and the lives of others.

Daniel Gilbert is happiness researcher and Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research focuses on happiness. In his TED talk entitled The Surprising Science of Happiness, he talks about the fact that we can be happy in spite of circumstances that come and go in our lives.

I have some recent experience with this because I have been invited to join my daughter and her family on a trip to Disney — which is billed as the happiest place on earth. But the circumstances that have led to this are not happy. You see my almost 3 year old grandson has cancer and is being granted this trip through the Make a Wish Foundation.

To be honest I have struggled with wondering how to enjoy this trip, and be filled with joy in spite of this circumstance. There is such a mix of emotion, including anger and a bit of guilt, and the whole “cancer perks” thing, which is a very real part of childhood cancer. People shower the family with all kinds of things — which is wonderful and awful all at the same time.

But the spring, and the International Day of Happiness, and Dan Gilbert are all trying to teach me that life is always a mix of good with bad, and at the end of the day happiness is a choice. And it is not about circumstances.

My daughter, the mother of the boy with cancer wrote so eloquently about this in her recent post. She said that the family had come from a particularly difficult doctor’s appointment, where there was another reminder of the uncertainty of her son’s situation. But when they got in the car the song Happy by Pharrell was playing on the radio.

And all the kids started dancing in their seats. And it was 70 degrees outside and for that moment they were choosing happiness (with a little help from a song). And if they can choose happiness, then so can I and so can you.

Thanks spring for ending winter, and for bringing signs of new hope as you do every year without fail. And thanks Make a Wish for bringing joy where there is hardship and sadness and thanks Pharrell for a song. Life is good.

Be Well on Purpose!


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