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5 Ways to Live a Fulfilling Life

A fulfilling life is defined as feeling happy and satisfied with your life, or at least feeling your life has a purpose. Living with a chronic disease, such as COPD, should not stop you from living a fulfilling life. Below are five ways of accomplishing this.

Note: The premise of this post is based on the results of a 75-year Harvard University study, called the “Grant Study. Researchers followed 268 male undergraduates from the classes of 1938-1940. There are various articles written about this study, including a book called "Triumphs and Experience" by George E. Vaillant. I found the book to be dry but interesting. While the study did not focus on COPD, I think that we can safely tailor the results for our purposes.

So, that said, here are five ways to live a fulfilling life with COPD.

Develop strong relationships with people

The key ingredient to a happy life is love. Love your spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends. You can have good health, a successful career, a nice house, a great job, and a fancy car, but none of those will make you happy if you don’t have solid relationships. So, be passionate in your relationships; find love, and you shall find happiness.

Find a career or hobby you are passionate about

Along with having strong connections with people, having a strong connection with your career or hobby is another indicator of satisfaction. Love of your job is a far greater indicator of happiness than how successful you are or how much money you make. I know many people with COPD who are unable to continue with their careers, yet they have taken up hobbies such as knitting, drawing, coloring, writing, socializing, reading, playing games, or walking. Finding something you are passionate about to occupy your time can be a significant source of overall happiness.

Challenge yourself

There is a certain feeling of joy when you accomplish a seemingly impossible task. For instance, I am aware of one person with COPD who walks marathons while wearing oxygen and lugging oxygen tanks behind him.  As I read interviews with him I can feel his passion, excitement, and joy. A challenge may be finishing a book or poem, or it may entail helping a child who is struggling at school. It may be something as simple as finishing a crossword or jigsaw puzzle.

Focus on the big picture

I think there is a tendency for many people to yearn for instant gratification. There’s that tendency to be the best at everything in order to fit in with a certain crowd or social class. Look at Facebook and you’ll see people who spend money on lavish vacations just so they can gloat on Facebook. I often see people with COPD who think they need to do all the work around their homes. They get upset that they had to ask for help. Contentment later in life had nothing to do with any of these “in the moment”  things. Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, "What really matters in my life?" If I were to use myself as an example here, I'd say being a good dad, setting a good example for my kids, and trying to be as much like Jesus as I possibly can. So, rather than focusing on the moment, try to focus on the big picture.

Stay active

This wasn’t necessarily covered in the study, although I’m adding it in here anyway. I think most COPD experts would agree that a key to feeling satisfied with your life is staying healthy, and staying active can help you accomplish just that. As noted above, any hobby can help you stay active.  Read a good book, or set a goal to read the entire Bible if you're interested in it. Spend time with friends and family. Participate in family events. Go on vacations, even if it means lugging oxygen tanks or compressors with you. Keep your mind busy. Stay active as you can. Regardless of what stage your COPD is in, it’s important for you to stay active. This should help you stay healthy and satisfied.

The Grant Study is neat in that it shows that feeling happy and satisfied is not determined by health: it is determined by love and passion. This means that you can still live a fulfilling life even with a disease like COPD.

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