The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

ARTICLE: 7 Habits of Happy People Who Live with Illness

Looking for some fresh content? One of the ways I have helped spread the word about Rest Ministries is to write a number of articles, all of which are available to reprint for free. You can use these anywhere, such as your blog, newsletter (for church or support group, or whatever…), ezine, web site or more. Thank you for helping us by freely using the articles. Just add the footer at the end!


7 Habits of Happy People Who Live with Illness

by Lisa Copen

As I type this my 4-year-old son is sitting beside me. He has a cold and a slight fever, but all he has said today since he woke up six hour ago is "I’m better now. I’m all better." How much can our attitude change how we cope with a chronic illness and even make us happy?

Everyone copes with challenges in their lives in different ways. For those who are diagnosed with a chronic illness they may put on a happy face and literally decide they will use this as a dare to succeed, constantly trying to overcome any limitations it sets forth. Others will drive home from the doctor’s office wondering how much longer they will be able to drive because of the pain. They’ll flop down on the couch and rarely roam from it for years. What is it that makes some people thrive despite their chronic illness and others simply survive and use it as an excuse for everything that goes wrong?

People who live with chronic illness and still exude happiness and joy for life have some things in common. None of us are perfect, so even if we tend to cope well with our disease, there is likely a step listed below that we could take to improve our outlook on life.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered:

[1] They maintain hope. We’ve found through research that people who have hope actually recover from surgery faster than those who have less hope. Hope is fundamental and a basic step in finding contentment despite our situation. The 2006 theme of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week was "My illness is invisible but my hope shines through." This is an attitude we should all have.

[2] They persevere and keep going no matter what. Living with a chronic illness is painful! Emotionally, physically, and spiritually it has the ability to quickly drain our strength and spirit. Our health is one of the main things we depend on to help us conquer our dreams, even referring to the saying, "At least you have your health!" But people who live with chronic pain and still are happy have learned to persist in reaching for their dreams, or even re-examining their dreams in order to create new ones. At times, the news goals can be more exhausting than the original ones, but passion can create a lot of adrenaline.

[3] They are good advocates of their own health. Paul J. Donoghue and Mary E. Siegel, authors of "Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired," write "Getting this help in a consistently satisfying manner is as essential as it is challenging. You will need perseverance, courage and skill. You will need to understand your needs and be committed to getting them" (p. 160). People who take part in the  decision making process on the topic of their care and treatment, and who actively hunt for out doctors who will partner with them, are more happy than those who feel out of control. For example, if it’s one’s desire to have children it’s important to have a medical team that will understand this desire and provide good treatment even if they don’t agree with your decision, rather than reprimand you by giving you poor care.

[4] People with an illness who are happy tend to ask, "Why not me?" rather than "Why me?" They rarely play the victim card. To have this attitude takes effort if it doesn’t come naturally. Many times people volunteer their time with organizations that may serve people who are also disadvantaged in some way. For example, they may volunteer for a group that serves others who live with illness, cancer, or who have left abusive homes, maybe even a pet shelter. They recognize that this world is not perfect and when things are going pretty well in their lives, it’s as a blessing, not a right.

[5] They have a strong foundation of who they are, shielding them from taking things too personally. Having a strong faith can make this much easier because one understands that her value and worth as a person doesn’t depend on what she can accomplish with her physical strength. She learns what she is responsible for (like an attitude) and not (like an infection that keeps returning). This can help avoid having unnecessary guilt for things out of her control.

[6] They communicate well. Being able to talk to others and explain your feelings, learning to listen effectively, and watching one’s words carefully, can prevent a lot of problems. Hurt feelings, misunderstandings and arguments can impact your entire life and your body’s abilities to cope with an illness. One must learn to control bitterness and focus on healthy relationships. Happy people know when to talk and how much to share about their personal lives. They learn how to speak with grace.

[7] They sincerely care about other people. Your illness may not have been the education you had hoped to get, but people who are happy see their experiences as a gift of knowledge. They can share their ups and downs, and struggles and successes with others who are going through challenging experiences and need a friend or mentor. To truly find happiness, we must search outside of ourselves and reach out to other people.

J.K. Rowling, author, once said, "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." This quote is perhaps one of the most wonderful examples of a good attitude for those with chronic illness.


Get an instant download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen when you subscribe to HopeNotes invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the coordinator of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and founder of Rest Ministries, Inc.

1 Comment»

  Assissotom wrote @

Great place to visit!

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