Wellness means different things to different people. Unfortunately, many seem to think that wellness means lack of illness. If this were true, then many of the elders in nursing homes everywhere are doomed to a life void of wellness. In my years of experience I have found this “wellness = lack of illness” equation to be false. It simply does not compute. I have met many, many, many (ok you get the point) people in my life who had various illnesses yet would tell you point blank that they were feeling quite well, thank you. So how can this be? Maybe wellness comes in various forms, and like our senses, when one area is weak or damaged, other areas can (note I said “can,” — this is not automatic) compensate. If the physical body is not well, there is still hope. We can be well in other ways. One highly valuable form of wellness, in my view, is happiness; the ever-fleeting feeling that we all know when we experience it. But what is it? Or, more importantly, where does happiness come from?
In an article by Sonya Green many thoughts on happiness are shared and discussed. One thing that caught my attention in the article was the idea that happiness is generated, not manufactured. There is no recipe for it, no secret formula. So, we have to generate it ourselves and then we can share it with others. To generate happiness, Green says, “There are two basic principles that I do consider to be imperative: Actively pursue, maintain, expand and share your happiness. Minimize, eliminate and repel unhappiness.”
Some things to think about for ourselves, and the elders we serve in our organizations:
- What do we do to encourage people to actively pursue happiness? If we do not seek it, it will elude us more often than not.
- How can we maintain, expand upon and share happiness? I encourage the use of learning circles or community circles for this. Celebrate everything, give recognition and make people feel special.
- Does anyone have a can of unhappy repellent? Maybe there is no magic spray, but we can pay more attention to minimizing negative thinking and negative talk. We can redirect people when they dwell on negative things that hold them back from being happy. As Green writes, “The most important aspect of happiness is to choose which thoughts you will entertain and which you will dismiss.”
I share Green’s view that happiness or unhappiness is usually a habit. Habits are simply choices that we all make. With work, we can make a choice to eliminate bad habits and choose to create new habits. It is not easy, but it is a choice. And if we work at it, we all have the capacity to increase the amount of happiness we experience in our lives. So generate some happiness for yourself so you can share it with someone else so they can share it with someone else so they can share it with someone else…
Glenn Blacklock has a Master of Arts in Leisure Studies with emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. As Administrator of Big Meadows Nursing Home he led the organization through their culture change journey. Glenn is the creator of the Action Pact workshop Unlock the Life Within and has guided nursing homes across the country through their transformation to households.