You know what it’s like to feel pain. It can be unpleasant, often debilitating, and take many forms from a sore back, stiff neck to a throbbing headache. Pain can impact all areas of our lives though not all pain is equal. If the pain is persistent, lasting longer than 6 months, it’s described as “chronic” pain. Shorter durations are typically referred to as “acute” pain.

While acute pain can be sudden and excruciating, it’s a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. With chronic pain, you might not know the reason for the pain as it might occur without any indication of an injury or illness. Chronic pain considered a health condition in itself.

A 2006 survey conducted for the American Pain Foundation evaluated the impact that chronic pain had on 303 chronic pain sufferers who sought care from their physician and were currently using an opioid to treat their pain. Almost two-thirds reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life. More than half reported having little or no control over their pain and nearly three quarters of patients reported feeling depressed.

So what role, if any, can happiness play in lowering pain levels? According to a survey by Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RRTC), happy people were more likely to report lower levels of pain.

“People who reported having a life with lasting meaning were more likely to report lower levels of pain, pain that didn’t get in the way of their lives, and they experienced less distress.”

The RRTC surveyed 400 individuals with different kinds of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, or spinal cord injury who reported having pain. They were asked how bad their pain was and its impact on their daily lives.

“We asked other questions about depression, stress, and anxiety,” wrote the survey’s authors. “Lastly, we asked about 3 different ways of experiencing happiness 1) having a life with lasting meaning, 2) living a pleasurable life, and 3) being involved or participating in valued activities.”

What they discovered was that happy people were more likely to report lower levels of pain and it was less likely to get in the way of their daily lives. Researchers found that only one of the three types of happiness actually had an impact on chronic pain.

According to researchers, “People who reported having a life with lasting meaning were more likely to report lower levels of pain, pain that didn’t get in the way of their lives, and they experienced less distress.”

The findings published on the Washington.edu’s website, offered five tips for harnessing the power of happiness in your life:

Five Tips for Harness the Power of Happiness

  1. Lend a helping hand or give back to others – Taking the focus off ourselves (and our pain) by connecting with people in need among your family, friends, or people in your community.
  2. Work towards a personal goal – Go after something personally important and rewarding.
  3. Becoming more involved in religion or spirituality – By seeking meaning and purpose, finding the sacred in ordinary life and mindful meditating.
  4. Nurturing relationships – Strengthening and enjoying relationships by making time for people, expressing admiration, appreciation, and affection, capitalizing on good fortunes, being supportive and loyal, managing conflict and sharing your inner life.
  5. Expressing gratitude – Writing down things that you are currently grateful for in your life

The full article can be read here.

Douglas is a leading technologist & key strategist with more than two decades experience in the health care and manufacturing industries.

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