On happiness

Happiness is U-shaped – according to research people are happiest in their teens and later life, and least happy somewhere in the middle. A few days ago I went to a fascinating lecture on happiness that showed gardening (or at least, having the chance to get out into nature) made a difference to people’s life satisfaction, as did walking, swimming and playing sport. Unsurprisingly, when people were asked what would make them happier, better health was a top priority. For those my age, ‘More time with my family’ was number 1, followed by ‘Loads more money’, ‘Better Health’, and lastly, ‘More/better possessions’. (See Ben Page from Ipsos Mori’s presentation for more insight into wellbeing).

The lecture got me thinking. This ‘U-shape’ of happiness can be challenged! I refuse to let my chronic health problems get me down. In a way, being told that I’m likely to be most depressed at this life stage makes me even more determined to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that health concerns don’t take over my life. It can be a struggle when your body and joints ache like hell and your fatigue levels are so low that no matter how much sleep you get, you don’t feel refreshed. Last week I was told by the rheumatologist that I had to stop Humira (Adalimumab) injections, and move to another anti-TNF drug, Enbrel (Etanercept). I only had 5 doses of Humira but had some unpleasant side effects so I have to stop it. It’s frustrating as it means Enbrel will be the fifth drug that I’m trying to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite this setback, I’m still seeing friends, going to films, doing normal stuff that not only boosts my mood but also distracts me from the pain and worries about my health. Next weekend I’m going Scottish country dancing which I haven’t done for ages. Playing the ukulele has been a fantastic way to unwind, meet new people and have fun. After just two weeks I can play 6 songs, including ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, and I can’t wait to learn more. At the end of the course, we’ll do a group performance on YouTube which should be a great laugh – I’m hoping it’ll be ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. Learning a new instrument has reminded me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and it’s an amazing ‘high’ to start the year on.

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