Everyone’s experience as a caregiver is different, but people who are innately happy, grateful, and positive tend to find the most happiness in caregiving and other stressful situations.
We’ll look at specific behaviors that have helped other caregivers maintain their happy outlook. Keep searching until you find your special method for dealing with anxiety, because anxiety and happiness make terrible bedfellows.
Turn Off the TV
Greater Good (a University of California, Berkeley, newsletter) reports that in a University of Maryland study published in 2008, “[Participants] who described themselves as not happy watched 30 percent more TV each day than those who considered themselves very happy.”
Action Item: Go on a TV diet and eliminate TV one day a week. Use the time to catch up with friends on the phone, pursue a hobby, or listen to music. Read before bedtime for a restful night’s sleep.
Learn to Say “No”
Caregiving Club reminds caregivers to pay it forward and be nice to someone. But keep in mind: You’re already giving the greatest gift of all to your loved one.
Action Item: You are doing enough, so remember that it’s OK to say “no” to others when you can’t or don’t want to take on something else, and remember to thank yourself for being so terrific!
Caregiving Club also reminds us to practice forgiveness. When was the last time someone asked you, “What can I do for you?” When you’re doing too much, feelings of resentment can often accompany the feelings of being overwhelmed. However, practicing forgiveness rather than carrying around resentment can help lighten your load.
Action Item: Lean on a friend, therapist, or support group; they can help you find forgiveness as you navigate toward happiness.
Happiness increases with gratitude. The word out of Harvard Medical School is that gratitude and thankfulness can make you happy. In fact, a recent study found that dwelling on gratitude instead of irritations leads not only to happiness, but also to more exercise and fewer visits to physicians.
Action Item: Buy a small journal. Each morning when you wake up, turn to a new page, record the date, and write a sentence or two about the first thing that comes to mind for which you’re grateful.
Look for the Silver Lining …
… or the half-full glass. We have little control over things that happen to us, but we have total control over the way we react to them. In fact, that’s about the only thing over which we have control in life. It might not sound like a lot, but it’s huge. You can influence all kinds of outcomes by controlling your reactions.
Action Item: Practice stopping negative thoughts midstream until you can stop them cold on command. Just say, “Cancel, cancel,” and replace the negative thought with its positive polar opposite.
Give these action items some time to work. If, after a few weeks, one doesn’t work, try another one. Keep at it until you find the “secret sauce” that works in your life. Once a behavioral change takes hold, add another one to your repertoire. You can never have too many ways to bring happiness into your life, and you deserve a happy life.