opinion

'I'm terminally ill. These are my 7 rules for happiness.'

Having been a Radio Content Director for most of my career, I understand the concept of tuning into the right frequency very well. Just like tuning into your favourite radio station, tuning into the right vibrational frequency can make all the difference to how you feel. The great news is you can tune into whatever you like and whenever you like - because you have all the power. 

So armed with this knowledge, when stage 4 rectal cancer hit in 2017, I chose to lock my station on happiness. 

Those who have been through cancer will tell you, it's a bumpy ride. With each blood test and scan you get more results, often resulting in more tests, horrible treatments and very scary conversations and thoughts. I realised quickly that I couldn't control anything that was happening to me or around me and that I needed to be OK no matter the outcome.

Watch: Scientific Happiness Hacks Anyone Can Try. Post continues after video.


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Remaining calm in the face of adversity is now my superpower, and it serves me well. I'm grateful that I found this so early in my diagnosis because it's helped me through nine surgeries, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and another shocking diagnosis earlier this year of motor neuron disease. Yes, after four years of living with stage 4 cancer and all that encompasses, receiving the news in January that I also had MND/ALS shook my world and challenged all my beliefs. How could I stay happy with TWO terminal illnesses? 

The overwhelming answer was, "How could I not?".

I knew the only way I'd cope would be to tune exclusively into the frequency of happiness. 

This takes daily practice, and it has to be a decision you make. When you are faced with limited time, you simply can't afford the little things in life to get to you, and you most certainly can't allow fear in at all. 

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Fear to me equals shaky ground. I needed rock solid, hopeful, healing ground. I needed to be fully present and strong in my mind, even when my body wasn't. 

"I'm so grateful to wake up each morning and to be blessed with another day in my joyous life." Image: Mel Dee Dzelde.  

Happiness changes everything and it's always there for us to experience, even when we're dying. It's hard to imagine this unless you've been there, but illness has gifts too. 

For me, that gift appeared in precious time. Having worked in commercial radio - a medium that never sleeps - and being in charge of two radio stations meant that whilst I was working, I never really switched off. I worked 24/7. 

So when the time came for me to resign, because of ill health, I received the gift of TIME. Time for ME. Time for the things I wanted and loved and time for healing. Stopping being so busy meant finally hearing my inner voice. 

The beautiful loving voice who encouraged me to sleep, eat better, speak kindly to myself and take in my surroundings and enjoy all that I had.  

So how did I do this? The answer is through daily practice. I needed a daily routine, and I also armed myself with strategies to keep my vibration high when things happened that threatened to make me unhappy.

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Each day I'd set my intention to happiness.

These are my seven rules for happiness. 

1. Greet each day with gratitude. 

I'm so grateful to wake up each morning and to be blessed with another day in my joyous life. I literally give thanks each morning for the day. It really doesn't matter what day it is. I have so many friends who live for Friday, as though every day until then is just filling in until finally Friday comes. 

But that's a waste. Every day is as good as Friday in my mind. In fact, in our house we have MonYAY, TuesYAY, WednesYAY... every day is a YAY!

2. Take care of yourself. 

This for me meant listening to my body. I'd literally ask it every morning - 'What do you need today?'. 

I'd know what foods to eat, what exercise to do, who I needed to speak to or connect with and what tools I needed to keep my vibration high. Part of taking care of yourself is creating a 'Tool Kit' that you can go to for help with this process. 

In my 'Happiness Tool Kit' are my favourite songs, feel-good books and movies, as well as people I love to talk to and connect with. I also have playlists of podcasts and YouTube videos I turn to.

For me, trees and nature fill my happiness cup, as do my children, husband and my three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.   

"Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and others and consciously do better." Image: Mel Dee Dzelde.  

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3. Let go of the past and focus on the NOW. 

My father taught me when I was young that if you have one foot in yesterday and the other foot in tomorrow, you pee on today! 

I love the crassness that these words evoke, and I believe he's spot on. The fact is, you can't change what has happened and you can only influence what happens tomorrow by making that change in the present. Feelings like guilt, regret, despair, impatience and powerlessness don't belong in the present moment. They belong either in the past or the future and frankly all of those feelings steal my joy. 

It's simple: Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and others and consciously do better. 

There you'll find your power and your peace.  

4. Use the power of your thoughts and words. 

I'm very careful with how I talk to myself and others. Of course, people often ask me how I'm feeling and I'm very conscious not to dwell on sickness, but to talk about healing and wellness. I'd rather talk about what's good and joyful in my life.

Some people think perhaps that's being in denial, but I strongly disagree. I will never find my wellness in my sickness. My healing happens in my joy, and love of life and living. I believe you are exactly who and what you think you are. 

If you think you're not good enough, or too sick, or not worthy, as examples, then you are absolutely right! Time to change up those thoughts and beliefs to ones that serve you.   

5. Don't give your happiness away. 

Having a terminal illness is like a blazing flame to the 'pity party moths'. There's nothing they love more than to wallow in your illness, so that in turn, you will wallow in their unhappiness. Guard against this. It will steal your happiness in an instant and put you back right where you don't want to be. 

Also, when things happen I might not want, like a bad scan result or a horrible side effect from a drug, I look at these things as little speed humps or hiccups on my journey. 

I refuse to give them any power and will not allow them to steal my happiness. Happiness comes from within. Sure, you can use your 'Tool Kit' to help you, but essentially you are the one who decides how you feel.  

"Just because I have two terminal illnesses, doesn't mean I don't still have dreams and goals." Image: Mel Dee Dzelde.  

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6. Be of service. 

Focus on giving to others. All the people I admire take time out of their busy schedules to help others. I've found this to be especially powerful when I'm feeling depleted. There is something magical about helping someone else. 

For a start, it takes the focus off of you and your stuff, and that in itself can be useful if you are feeling stuck or demotivated. Helping someone else to fulfill their dreams is my absolute favourite thing to do. 

Often it's so easy to see other people's solutions and potential and if you can help in any way, why wouldn't you? I like to imagine a world where everyone is living their dream life and are reaching their full potential. 

That's a world I'd like to live in.   

7. Dream BIG.

Follow your dreams. Just because I have two terminal illnesses, doesn't mean I don't still have dreams and goals. 

It's NEVER too late to dream. 

Listen to Briony Benjamin's story about her cancer diagnosis. Post continues after audio.

I live my life fully each day. Sure, I'm much slower than I'd normally be, but that doesn't stop me. Each day, I do something - no matter how small - to get me closer to my dreams. Oh, and I dare to dream some BIG dreams. Why not? How exciting!     

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There's nothing new about these rules, and you've probably heard some of them before. 

But just like baking a cake, when you put all the ingredients together, the result works. Leave out something and it doesn't quite come out the way you hoped it would. 

For me, doing all these things consistently brings me happiness.

Another thing to consider is what there is in your life right now that steals your happiness. Perhaps it's a friend, or maybe it's your work, or living environment. Whatever it is, make it a priority to eliminate or at least improve that situation to a point where it doesn't affect you. 

The truth is, it doesn't really matter what's going on around you or even to you, there is always room for happiness. 

It's a gift that you can give to yourself, at any given moment. It's something I've found that has really helped me get through what I initially thought was impossible. Happiness has given me hope, and it's given me back my life - even in the face of death. 

Happiness is for all of us right now. Why not choose it?      

Feature Image: Supplied.

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