Happiness is . . .

            In April 2001, despite having about a dozen chronic illnesses, I stopped taking drugs.  So what have I learned in the past decade?

            I have learned that happiness consists of a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, challenging exercise, mature spirituality, and doing something that benefits others.

            Additionally, I have learned to treat illness with air, light, sleep, diet, exercise, chiropractic, hypnotherapy and acupuncture.


            A Good Night’s Sleep  If you have troubled sleep then figure and out what’s causing it and do something about it.  The deepest healing takes place while you sleep.  If you aren’t getting restorative sleep then you aren’t getting better.  Fixing your sleep problem will contribute to fixing every other problem:  start there.

            A Healthy Diet  The performance of your physical machine is dependent on the quality of the fuel you put into it.  The wrong foods can significantly exacerbate your sickness; likewise, the right foods can make you feel better and, in some cases, completely eliminate symptoms. 

            Challenging Exercise  A healthy body wants to get up and go, and the healthier you get then the more you will enjoy exercise.  You have to have good sleep and a healthy diet in order to exercise, and once you start exercising then you’ll sleep better.  The consequence of exercise is that you can do stuff—climb stairs, run with your kid, chop and stack firewood.

            Mature spirituality  Do you believe you have a spirit?  Does that spirit transcend death?  Is there a God?  How you answer those questions is less important than the fact that you give thought and do answer the questions.  How you live this life depends on what you believe about God and the next life.  You only can know how to live this life if you view it from the aspect of eternity.

            Doing Something That Benefits Others  Human beings are communal animals.  Genuine happiness only occurs in the context of what you are doing for others.  That may mean working for a moral corporation or taking care of your grandchildren or advocating for peace.  Whatever you do, improving the quality of life for others will make you feel better.


            Air  I have severe unstable obstructive sleep apnea.  It was caused or exacerbated by the drug Ativan.  I treat it with an auto-BiPAP, that is, pressurized air.

            Light  Central New York is peculiarly deficient of winter sunshine.  Like many residents of the area, I have seasonal affective disorder.  The treatment is sitting in front of a lightbox for half an hour a day from mid-October to mid-March.

            Sleep  I have chronic depression.  Sleep, that is, taking naps during the day, reduces the symptoms.  Also, various colds and viruses can be nipped in the bud if you go right to bed for a nap, followed by a good night’s sleep.  It is the American way to soldier through and therefore be sick, contagious and a threat to the community for a week.  Sleep enables your immune system to focus its full attention on fighting the virus instead of fighting the stress of working, shopping, etc., therefore enabling it to knock out a virus in a matter of hours.  When my friend takes an afternoon nap, she calls it “pulling an Annie.”

            Diet  Wheat and dairy products are really not that good for you.  Switching to brown rice and soy milk is better.  No-sugar-added is standard procedure for treating diabetes mellitus, which I have.  Sugar is both unnecessary and bad for you, plain and simple.  Sugar-substitutes that come from a laboratory are no better.  Once you clean the fat, salt and sugar out of your diet, then the craving for sugar stops and you can enjoy fruit and other low-sugar, no-sugar products.  Antidepressants raise glucose levels.  Without drugs and with proper diet and exercise, you can be diagnosed with diabetes but still be perfectly healthy.  Diet is my treatment for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus (a rare kidney disease caused by unmonitored lithium), celiac disease, and chronic renal failure

            Exercise  My neighbor lost sixty pounds in less than a year by (a) eating smaller portions of food and (b) walking.  A good physical therapist who can teach you how to exercise is invaluable.  Exercise will lower your blood pressure and glucose level, increase endorphins in your brain, alleviate arthritic pain, and help you get a good night’s sleep.  Everything goes better with sleep. 

            Chiropractic  Everything your body does is directed by your brain.  Your brain sends messages by way of the spinal cord.  If your vertebra is pressing on your spinal cord then the messages are being corrupted and nothing works right.  When I started chiropractic adjustments, the arthritis in my neck was so bad that people had to stand in front of me to carry on a conversation because I couldn’t turn my head.  Now, I have full range of motion.  Chiropractic has relieved my depression, opened blocked sinuses, improved my breathing and—oh yeah—stopped the lower back pain.

            Hypnotherapy  Hypnotherapy establishes a direct link between the conscious and unconscious mind.  Through that link, all kinds of messages can be sent to facilitate healing.  I had uncontrolled menopausal bleeding; we stopped it with hypnotic suggestion.  Consequent to decades of drugging, my adrenal glands were producing abnormally high levels of stress hormones; we slowed that down with hypnotherapy.  I had a root canal done using hypnotherapy as the only anesthesia.  The dentist, his assistant, and the hypnotherapist worked; I went on vacation to the Chesapeake Bay.  What’s not to like?

            Acupuncture  Acupuncture began thousands of years ago in China and the Chinese way of understanding the body has no correspondence to the American way, nevertheless, it works.  Needles as thin as a strand of hair are placed in various positions for an hour or less, and they unblock points that are blocked.  We’ve used it to reverse bipolar disorder shifts, relieve the immune system, lower a fever, heal tendonitis, and lots of other stuff.

            Happiness is the side effect of being healthy.  Living a healthy life has nothing to do with taking drugs.  You have choices.  Taking drugs is like drinking instant coffee:  it’s both fast and disgusting.  Brewed is better.  Take the time for it.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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