In the last post we looked at a challenging topic:
being happy and at the same time time coping with canine cancer.
Since so much of humanity’s attention is on the pursuit of this commodity (happiness), let’s spend a little more time on it. One of the previous points made was that it can seem like a betrayal to a loyal dog to allow ourselves the luxury of being happy during this life or death fight. However, after doing what you need to to experience what comes up, everyone wins if you can release ongoing sadness.
You will be a more effective advocate for your dog’s health. You competence will increase. You will change the mood and the environment in which your dog lives to make it a more healing one. You will help your dog, yourself, and others by letting go of chronic sadness.
The age-old saying, “Fake it until you make it,” although it is tired and worn out, is still good wisdom. In our context, this means using our own backbones (willpower) to literally create some happiness out of thin air.
An interesting article showed that smiling after a distressing experience is a positive coping mechanism. Sound corny? Well, I agree. However, I will say that if one deliberately smiles in the mornings using will power, and allow the feelings naturally arise from the expression, some very interesting positive effects are produced. If a person makes this a practice using willed repetition, the changes can be long lasting.
Simply smiling, for no apparent reason, can be a little salve for life’s abrasions. Try it for yourself if you are skeptical. But give it a real try. Fake smiles don’t work on others or on ourselves.
Having a hard time with that? Try making a deliberate effort to be around other people. Laughter is 36 times more likely to occur in the presence of someone else.
Don’t believe it? Well, for what it is worth, the same phenomenon occurs in a favorite of scientists, the rat.
Rats product a very high chirping noise that occurs during behaviors that appear to be playful, and not during times when they are showing more fear. They make these noises much more commonly in the presence of other rats than they do by themselves.
It has been found that there is a lot of overlap in brain circuitry when someone is experiencing happiness or sadness. That is, a lot of the brain’s activity is the same. So it makes sense to say, on a nuts and bolts level anyway, that happiness and sadness are not really opposites at all.
More importantly, the take home message is that you can feel happy while you are also feeling sad. Not only are you allowed to do it, it is wired into your hardware.
If you are intrigued by the possibilities this raises, you may want to read the first couple of chapters in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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