Can You Find Happiness While Living With Chronic Pain?

We are annually wished a Happy Birthday; in fact, I am having a birthday tomorrow. It won’t be as happy as usual thanks to the isolationism brought on by Covid 19. We will be expected to have a Happy New Year but apparently, we’re supposed to have a Merry Christmas. However, in England one is wished a Happy Christmas. We can be slap happy, trigger happy and “so happy for you.” I’m not certain who creates these labels but most of them have to be jolly, merry and bright.

I have often wondered how important it is to be happy. Do you think you can be happy if you live with chronic pain each day of your life? Should we strive for happiness? Does it matter? Is happiness important compared to being healthy?

So many questions come to mind when you open this jolly, sparkly box such as, can another person make you happy or do you have to do that all by yourself? Are we happier when we’re in love or when we’re fulfilled all on our own?  Are we happiest when we’re children? Does that mean old folks aren’t happy? My husband is not one for sentimentality in what he says, such as one example when we first knew we were in love. One evening we were sitting on the couch and I said to him, the master of the understated, “Why don’t you say something soft, warm and mushy to me?”

He looked at me with a sly smile and said, long and slow, “Oh, Shiiit !”

I’ve known many individuals who never seem content, happy or fulfilled and I’m sure you have, too. Personally, I don’t think happiness is a gift we can receive from someone else. It’s a present we give ourselves. Perhaps, happiness is like our thoughts, our incentive and our creativity; it is born within and can only come from some place deeplyimbedded in each of us. 

It’s only human to want to be happy. We can learn to cultivate happiness within and here are four of the most effective ways I have discovered to do that. 

1. Accept unhappiness as a part of life; just don’t let it move in forever. Don’t expect to be happy everyday. I don’t think anyone can achieve that particular goal and if you do, you might be kidding yourself. We aren’t supposed to be happy during physical pain but we can have the strength of endurance and look forward to feeling better. We can make peace with our pain as we pursue answers. We can’t be happy when we are grieving for a lost loved one, beloved pet or the loss of a life achievement such as a business or home. Sometimes we have to grieve, cry and mourn before we can move on. Moving on can take time but it’s worth it to work through the mourning and loss to get to the other side of loss into the sunshine. Mourning shows respect, love and appreciation for what we’ve lost. Don’t let anyone else tell you to “perk up,” “get on with it,” or “cheer up.” You’ll do that when you’re ready to.

The loss of our health and the advent of chronic pain into our lives can make us very unhappy for a time because it is a loss of great magnitude.  We’re ticked off because it isn’t part of the plan we had for our life. It hurts. We don’t like hurting and if we do, we should head for the nearest counselor. When unhappiness reaches into the dark parts of our lives and stays too long, then it is officially depression; that’s when we should ask for a reference to receive guidance from a professional.

2. Consider changing your definition of happiness. I think it means something different to each of us, don’t you? Our ideas of happiness come from many sources. Those sources are far too numerous to mention, but I’ll mention a few. You and I can achieve happiness from eating a strawberry ice cream cone on a hot day, receiving a dozen yellow roses or a hand-picked spring bouquet from a child or beloved spouse, or having a new child or grandchild enter our lives. We can be happy when our team or candidate wins, when we receive an unexpected windfall or when seeds we have planted pop through the ground and bloom into loveliness. Here in good old soggy Oregon, we sometimes have ferns pop up unexpectedly in the yard and that is like a gift from nature. 

How do you gauge happiness? Simple or monumental is in the eye of the individual, as is humor, fear and anxiety. For instance, superficial love usually brings joy and happiness but it can become very dark and lose its luster. If that occurs, it no longer qualifies as love.

3. Spend some time looking inward. In spite of your illness and pain, there is something or many things that make you happy. Ask yourself what they are. They are usually tied to fulfillment, large or small. It may be something you’ve wanted to do for a long time; perhaps since you were a child. What would give you fulfillment and joy? As long as you’re visiting your childhood, try to remember what made you happy as a child. Was it astrawberry ice cream cone? Was it the comfort and security of being tucked in at night? What were your dreams? Have they come true for you? You might have to rearrange a few approaches but the chances are you still have the ability to achieve…whatever it is.There is fulfillment, achievement, joy and happiness waiting for you. You may not recognize it if you are in pain or crisis mode, as I seem to be in so often. Actually, I am in pain every day of my life and that takes a whole new mindset as to the definition of what constitutes happiness. I believe happiness changes to joy and peace of the heart and mind as we go through trials, illness and pain in this life. It becomes less giddy and more substantial. That gives the word happiness much more depth as we mature and yes, indeedy, you and I know we never stop maturing. We will either grow or deteriorate, spiritually, until our life is over. Life and its various meanings and interpretations are ever changing. 

4. Once you find happiness, of any size, degree or dimension, give it away, share it. You can keep it as well as give it away. It’s kind of like breast milk in that regard. The more a baby suckles from the mother, the more milk is produced. Happiness is one of those emotions that will grow as it is shared. Strange as it seems, the more you give to others the better you will feel. Ask for that peace that passes all understanding from the source of peace as you remember, God is love and He indeed love and wants you to have that kind of peace. It is possible and sometimes I have to remind myself of that on a daily basis as I fight my own battle with chronic pain.

12 thoughts on “Can You Find Happiness While Living With Chronic Pain?

  1. Absolutely great Sue so true As well
    It pops up in the most unlikely places and you can’t keep it to yourself you have to share it to enjoy it

    Anyway….Happy Birthday for tomorrow..I’ve been wondering how you are .i hope you have a lovely day and share that happiness with your family

    • Chris, thanks so much for the greetings. Hope all is well with you. I know you are dealing with many of the same things we are dealing with here in the states thanks to this Covid mess. Love, Sue

  2. Sue,

    My greatest happiness as a child was riding my horse. I have since then have had others but nothing like the bond I had with him. I think of him alot. After several bad falls of my last horse and a car accident I could no longer ride. That was a huge blow. I gave her away to a good home.

    I had to find other things to make me happy and get out of my depression. I am very limited in what I can do as I am in pain daily. My mother was a painter and did many other crafts so I decided to give that a whirl. I now have a massive craft room full of things I can do.

    I love helping people and volunteer when I can, but what came out of it was my love for card making. I admit I have kept many, but what I have found the mist enjoyment is making them for other people. What started out as birthday, Christmas and other special days has turned into making cards for seniors in nursing homes and now I am working on cards for first responders. It has given me much joy. It is difficult and painful, but I find doing it is very rewarding for happiness and spiritually. Like they say ‘where one door closes, God opens another’.

    It is not what I thought I would be doing for sure, but it gives me a deeper sense of happiness.

    My husband, Richard, knows I love the color purple and flowers. He is always surprising me with beautiful purple flowers of every kind or when he finds a purple stuffed animal. Both he and my son are so loving, caring and helpful and that is a blessing. God did not cause my situation but He made sure I have what I need to continue.

    I find the little things in life are so rewarding and I don’t take them for granted. I still get depressed and frustrated because of the things I can no longer do and the constant pain, but then God puts something in my path to bring me back up again. I am truly blessed.

    Happy Birthday!

    • Cindy, thanks for the birthday greetings. My daughter and grands came over and we visited in our front patio. It was lovely yet sad due to the isolationism. Kept wanting to hug everyone.
      Indeed, I think crafting is the most fun there can be. I used to be terribly creative but am not able to sit and so many things require that. I also cannot concentrate due to the pain meds, like I used to. I was into quilting, counted cross stitch, etc. I used to make half of my Christmas gifts each year. I’m pleased you not only have the talent but joy of sharing what you create. Wonderful therapy. Fondly, Sue

  3. The beginning tickled me….I’ve sure dealt with plenty of that in my life. I’m not sure I’m happy but I’m not unhappy. I think I would describe myself as content despite everything.

    • Laura, sounds like a good place to be, especially with all you have to deal with due to the disabilities and pain of your type of arthritis. Love, Sue

  4. Wonderful thoughts on the unhappy subject of being happy! I think you’re spot on. We should accept all emotions as a natural and normal part of the human. The moment we resist or think something must be wrong we give that emotion strength. I agree also that chasing purpose and meaning are far better thing to chase than happiness. Being a realist is far better for your wellbeing than being an optimist or a pessimist. Thanks for sharing.

    • AP2, Thanks so much for taking the time and thought to write. Indeed, happiness is a bubble. Fleeting, beautiful and burst without reason. Come again, you have much to share, I know. Sue

  5. The chronic pain has knocked me for a loop. You’re right it and the pandemic has put an early end to the life I’d hoped for as I aged. For a good part of my life I’ve been depressed but I don’t have that same feeling any longer. I think that when I turned seventy I finally accepted the circumstances of my life and stopped fighting for what I thought was my dream life in old age. I had it all figured out but my health took a nose dive. I dreamed of a close and loving family we would be able to see more than once every two or three years. My grandkids have grown up without knowing me. Marriage is okay but we are together way too much after forty seven years. My husband couldn’t stay in a job for longer than two years at a time so it’s been difficult to keep close friends close.

    I didn’t think I was that sad until I started writing this, I just thought, it could be a whole lot worse. I don’t know about being sad Sue, maybe it’s more lonley.

    • Jan, I know acceptance is important but I do hope you can do something about the loneliness. You have to be a good friend in order to have one. Can you get out usually or does your physical problem keep that from happening? Maybe your husband is lonely, too. These days with that Covid crap many of us are feeling isolated but that’s bit different than lonely. I have lost a couple of dear friends to death and miss them but have met a great many great women and guys on FB. Getting out, if just to the garden or porch can help. Is there any group you can normally be a part of? Lastly, is it possible you need a med for depression? Have you talked to you doc or is it mostly loneliness and possibly pain? Pain can certainly be depressing. Hang in there and try to get to know you grandkids to see if they care or is it too late? Sometimes, if you aren’t close to kids when they are young, they don’t any memories of you. Is that the problem? Time to take a good look at your life my dear.

  6. Great blog on chronic pain and trying to cope each day with pain. I have lived with chronic pain for years and the last 2 years have really been a challenge for me and my husband to ecsept this and move on with life. I also have had a heart attack 3 years ago and that don’t help the situation at all. But your blogs gives me hope and at least theres something to look forward to in life. Happy Birthday Sue,

    • seadog22, So good to heaer from you allthough the reason is not a pleasant one. I am sorry to hear from another chronic pain person. You know it is a secret society where we choose two paths; bitterness or wisdom. Keep searching and in time, it will be easier. I have been at it for over 30 years with three separate rheumatoid diseases, then life added metastatic breast cancer 6 years ago. The question of why’s is no longer relavent. Hang on and thank you for you for sharing. Stay safe and stay as well as you can. Sue

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