By: Deborah Claypool
“Finding joy in the midst of chronic pain is about learning to live in the present moment, finding beauty in the small things, and appreciating the strength and resilience that comes with overcoming the negativity.” – Unknown.
For close to 30 years, I have faced excruciating daily pain, but I have persisted as a chronic pain survivor. Due to a congenital defect, I suffered from chronic pancreatitis for years, then eventually had my pancreas removed and a transplant surgery performed. Though I still struggle with pain on a daily basis, I have managed to raise two wonderful boys and cultivate resilience skills to navigate my condition. I chronicle my journey in my blog Simply Resilient at daj1.com.
How can we discover joy in our everyday lives? Negativity, such as fear, anxiety, anger, and bitterness, triggers the fight-or-flight response in our brains and can prevent us from experiencing joy. Unfortunately, negativity is often our default state, especially for those of us that suffer chronic pain, making it difficult to see things clearly or from a different perspective.
One effective way to calm the fight-or-flight response is to focus on being present in the moment. Take a moment to use your senses to connect with the present and your surroundings, and things about your body that are fine. This can help you realize that you are, in fact, ok. It can help soothe your brain and prevent it from sounding the fight-or-flight alarm. When negative thoughts persist, try visualization techniques to imagine the best possible outcome for your situation. Actively anticipating positive outcomes from stressful situations can help cultivate a sense of joy.
Our brains are wired for survival, which sometimes results in a negativity bias. To experience joy, we need to override this bias and actively seek out positive experiences. Look for the bigger picture and when feeling negative, pause and take a breath. Use your senses to find something that brings you joy.
One thing that consistently brings me joy, regardless of what is happening in my life, is spending time with my miniature dachshund puppy, Frankie. She exudes joy and a zest for life, and her positive energy is infectious. Even if I step out of the room for just a few minutes, she wags her tail with excitement upon my return. At times, I simply bask in the sunshine or listen to the birds outside. It doesn’t have to be anything grand; what matters is keeping an eye out for those moments of joy.
Embracing joy can boost productivity, energy, and creativity. Ultimately, it is our choice. We can wake up each morning with the intention of choosing joy.
Deborah is a 30-year chronic pain sufferer who used resiliency skills to come back to life when she was mired in depression and pain. She had congenital pancreatitis and eventually did receive a transplant. She’s still suffering chronic daily pain and continues to try to use positivity to lessen the pain. She started a blog, daj1.org, to try to help people by sharing her own experiences.