Those of us who have chronic illnesses usually want to change our lives in major ways. We want our pain to go away, we want to be able to eat a normal diet, and we want the fatigue to go away so that we have all the energy we used to have. In short, we want all of our symptoms to go away so can have the quality of life we had before we became ill.
Most people with chronic illnesses spend a lot of time thinking about all those changes we want, which is completely understandable since so many of us have symptoms that are very painful and difficult to live with.
But in doing that, we can-and often do-overlook the many small things we can do to improve the quality of our lives. And some of those small things can result in big improvements.
One experiment I’ve read about that was carried out many years ago made me realize the difference small things can make. Researchers Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin divided the residents of a nursing home into two groups, and introduced very small changes into the lives of those in the experimental group. They were given the option of seeing a weekly movie and a choice of two nights on which to see it. They were given the choice about whether to see visitors in their rooms, the lounge, or outside, and they were given the responsibility of taking care of a houseplant. Only one change was introduced into the lives of those in the control group: they too were given houseplants, but they were told that nursing home staff people would take care of them.
The difference in the quality of life between the experimental group and the control group was dramatic. Those in the former were much happier, and their mortality rate for the 18 months following the experiment was half that of the other group.
The results of that experiment don’t mean you should stop wanting your illness to go into remission, but they do demonstrate that small changes can lead to big improvements.
Since the new year is only a few days away, I will leave you with this question: what small New Year’s Resolution do you want to make – and keep?