Epilepsy Talk

12 Recipes for Happiness – Even If You Have Epilepsy! | March 20, 2012

“No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.” — Barbara de Angelis

We all know that epilepsy is no day at the beach. You may feel depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, anger, or a whole host of other things, too may to mention.

But, if you dig deep into yourself, perhaps there’s a few things you can do to relieve those feelings.

Here are some ideas…

1. Laugh a little. Laughter can improve your EEG results!

Scientists traced the brainwave activity of people responding to funny material when hooked up to an EEG and measured their brain activity when they laughed.

In each case, the brain produced a regular electrical pattern. Because, less than a half-second after exposure to something funny, an electrical wave moves through the cerebral cortex.

Human beings love to laugh, and the average adult laughs 17 times a day, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

And laughter is catching!

In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body.

It relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress. It dissolves negative emotions. It dispels anger.

After all, how can you be angry if you’re laughing? Or depressed.

2. Focus on the positive.

Too often, our negative experiences color our view of the past. Instead of focusing on all the times you have had seizures, think of all the times you haven’t and you are more likely to find that seizures constitute a small part of your life.

It’s often a matter of putting things into a more realistic perspective. For example, worrying about having a seizure in a certain situation is actually wasted energy, because the seizure may not even occur.

3. Gratitude is the attitude.

I actually make a mental list of things I am grateful for before I go to bed at night. Sometimes I write them down (just to remember when I get the blues and need a boost) and sometimes just thinking about them makes me smile!

Your attitude to epilepsy will influence your emotions and behavior. It’s possible to learn to substitute positive thoughts for negative thoughts. You know, mind over matter.

For example rather than saying to yourself “I am going to have a seizure, I know I am,” try thinking positively. The mind is a very powerful tool. Some people find that positive self-talk can actually prevent seizures.

4. Give to others. The satisfaction of helping others will boost your self-esteem.

Once you develop an inner strength and learn to help yourself, then try to be a mentor to others who suffer from epilepsy.

Go out into the epilepsy community and teach others how to live with their epilepsy from a positive perspective. Using the knowledge you’ve gained, will teach others how to cope with the fears, anxiety, depression and anger that is part of their lives. If we stay strong, it’s a wonderful role model and others with epilepsy will try to stay strong too.

For me it’s running a website and facilitating an Epilepsy Support Group. It’s my way of giving back, because I have been so fortunate and I want to help others.

And guess what, I learn from the other members! Together we are building a community of sharing, confidence and caring.

5. Talk, talk and talk. Educate others about epilepsy.

The first thing is to share your epilepsy and feelings with your family. Not so easy. Since many relatives are in denial, this might be a bit tricky. (My step-father was a surgeon and my step-mother was a psychologist and they never said the “E” word!)

One book that may be helpful is “Epilepsy: Patient and Family Guide” by the famous neurologist (and my idol) Orrin Devinsky.

Here’s an unbiased review: “A great neurologist took the time to write a book for those of us with epilepsy, our friends, and our families. He helps dispel many of the myths that exist about seizure disorders. Never patronizing and extremely informative, I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Devinsky’s book for anyone in need of information about seizure disorders.”

It’s also supremely important “to come out of the closet” and educate everyone you can: parents, of your own and other’s parents, nurses, teachers, employers, colleagues, EMTs, hospital staff, police, firemen, public personnel, prison wardens (I’ve heard some very grim stories), judges and yes, legislators.

6. Stop to smell the roses.

Be mindful of what surrounds you. Mindfulness may be described as the ability to pay deliberate attention to our experiences from moment to moment, to what is going on in our mind, body, simply, and without immediate judgment.

For example, focus on your surroundings. Whether it’s trees and birds, a beautiful building, people watching, a fabulous meal. Take yourself into the moment and leave your negative thoughts behind.

And don’t forget to make time for play!

7. Exercise

Regular physical exercise may have a moderate seizure preventive effect in 30-40 per cent of the patient population, while for about 10 per cent, strenuous exercise may provoke seizures.

Clinical and experimental studies have analyzed the effect of physical exercise on epilepsy. Although there are rare cases of exercise-induced seizures, studies have shown that physical activity can decrease seizure frequency, as well as lead to improved cardiovascular and psychological health in people with epilepsy. It’s a great tool since it makes you feel good mentally and brings positive physical changes in your body. Exercising clears the mind, and sometimes can soothe the soul.

8. Socialize

Hang out with positive people. Having someone in your immediate social circle who is upbeat increases your chances of happiness by 15 per cent. Why? Because happy people have the power to spread their feel-good vibes far and wide. Not only do immediate friends matter, but friends of friends, too. So make plans to have lunch with a friend or go for a walk together. It could put a smile on your face, besides what have you got to lose?

Slowly, reach out. It’s not hard to make friends if you put in the time. Listening, appreciation, caring and love will come back your way.

I look at friendship like a flower. The more seeds you plant, the more blooms will grow.

9. Music

Not surprisingly, music has also been found to have a profoundly positive effect on people with epilepsy. In fact, one research study even found that when patients are treated with music therapy as well as conventional anti-seizure meds, as many as eighty percent of seizures were reduced!

It may be because the brain doesn’t have any single center for processing music. Instead, the areas of the brain that process music are widely scattered. So, when the brain is subjected to music that is highly structured, such as Mozart’s Sonata for Two Piano’s, the brain process is actually aided. In fact, research has suggested that Mozart’s K448 piano concerto can actually reduce the number of seizures.

And amazingly enough, music played at a moderate or moderately fast tempo, without too many abrupt changes in dynamics (loud and soft) can aid in normalizing EEGs. That’s because it helps us to relax and ease tension, equalizing the brain waves. (Look for Concertos, Sonatas and Symphonies.)

Music can also change behavior. The right kind can turn depression into joy, anger to calmness, hate to love, and fear to courage. Beautiful music has an effect on all people and it can soothe and help take away feelings of frustration and anger.

10. Read

You might have trouble focusing, concentrating or even remembering what you just read, but give it a try. Start with cartoons or illustrations that make you laugh. (Don’t make fun of me, but I play “Mad Libs. It’s a hoot. And all you have to supply is one word.)

Then graduate to easy magazines like “People” or “Car and Driver.”  Next, try some easy to read “beach books” or sports books.

Someone has said, books are man’s (and women’s) best friends. You can take a temporary leave of absence from reality and bury yourself in one of your favorite books. A lot of wise people have been through what you’re going through and they made it through to the other side to tell about it.

11. Try something new and creative.

There can definitely be a creative side to the electrical mischief that epilepsy produces.  Some types of epilepsy can spark inspiration, enhance creativity and bring out the latent artist in you.  It can be as diverse as writing…painting…drawing…dramatics…architecture…philosophy…or physics…to name just a few.

Researchers claim that often these surprise talents are associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.  In this case, the sides of the brain, where memory and feelings reside, are intermittently seized by those “electrical storms” which produce the creative spark.

Although the seizures may be undetectable to observers, they can prompt hallucinations, religion, fury, fear, joy and an unquenchable desire to create, even after the seizure is over.

So you may not know it, but you may have some surprise artistic talents hidden away.  Give it a try.  Dabble a little. It’s exciting, energizing, rewarding, all-encompassing, and I must admit, a wonderful escape.  Like turning lemons into lemonade!

12. Dream a little.

Believe it or not, some of your aspirations can become reality. My parents told me I would never amount to anything. But even at the age of 14, when I sat on my grandfather’s knee and told him I wanted to be a writer, he took me very seriously. He was the only one who believed in me. But unhappily, he died soon after.

So I started my own business on his birthday. Just a little tribute to his love and support.















  1. I use to have a negative attitude toward most everything. Living alone can do it. I got married and and I changed to a positive attude and a sence of humor.
    Now I make a joke out of anything uncluding negative things and I can control any depression that may come alone.


    Comment by mkfarnam — March 21, 2012 @ 4:35 AM

  2. I think Arthur also changed my spirit. There’s nothing like love to do it. In fact, today is the 33rd anniversary of our 1st date!

    As far as the jokes, I’m not quite as skilled as you… 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 21, 2012 @ 1:24 PM

    • Phylis!!
      Congradulations! and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!

      Phylis, as you noticed on facebook, I just started a new relationship(w/marriage on the agenda) .I call the “feeling of Love” ,
      “a Womans touch”
      This is my 2nd “Womans touch” in 57 yr’s and it’s made me willing to change any part of my life that’s necissary to make this last.


      Comment by mkfarnam — March 21, 2012 @ 3:13 PM

  3. Oh Mike how wonderful. I wish you all good things, especially love and laughter!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 21, 2012 @ 9:13 PM

  4. Congradulations Phylis and Arthur on your Anniversary!

    Mike I love your positive attitude!

    I love your grandfather Phylis! I wish he lived longer I would give him a hug!

    I had a flurry in a New Epileptologist office yesterday and he made a comment that I wasn’t mad or depressed. I told him it happens often and chuckled “it’s the fact of my life” Love to get rid of it ! He then chuckled w/ me as I was getting more ativan to stop the next seizure. I now spinal injuries now, which is new to me and he told me don’t worry about it, they will heal and if they don’t our group can help you.

    The doctor had a happy way about himself!


    Comment by Toni Robison — March 22, 2012 @ 9:02 PM

  5. OMG. I just lost a 1/2 hour post to you! Ok. Here we go (again!)

    I’m happy that your new Epileptologist is happy. GOOD FOR HIM!

    Now, How about YOU?

    Discouraging as it may be, I think it’s time to shop for a new neuro. Or at last a second opinion.

    2012 List of GOOD Neurologists…Epileptologists…Neurosurgeons…and Pediatric Doctors


    Even with the Ativan increase.

    At best, he’s just lazy. At worst, he just does’t care.

    This really troubles me.

    Also, what’s your primary med? Because in another post, I found: Toxic Effect on Brain or Spinal Cord Function is a very rare side effect of Trileptal according to http://www.webmd.com/drugs/mono-5005-OXCARBAZEPINE+-+ORAL.aspx?drugid=17984&drugname=trileptal+oral&pagenumber=6

    Please, please, get a second opinion. This guy sounds scary. And I’m worried about you!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 24, 2012 @ 5:22 PM

  6. Thanks for this writing. Right now I find myself struggling with #2 after this surgery. I keep waiting for another shoe to drop even tho this is the LONGEST time I have gone seizure free in years, yet I can’t help from thinking whats coming next. Definitely something I need to work on.



    Comment by Travis — March 24, 2012 @ 10:45 PM

  7. Very uplifting beautiful stories,,,
    It’s good to know “ATTITUDE” can move mountains.



    Comment by Gerrie — March 25, 2012 @ 12:02 AM

  8. Hi travis,
    What keeps me on the positive side of thinking about seizure return is this. I’ve been seizure free for almost three years now, and if they ever return, I know I was blessed for however long I didn’t have to deal with this scourge we call Epilepsy. Hang in there bro.


    Comment by Charlie — March 25, 2012 @ 12:45 PM

  9. Travis, I emphasize with you. After living with all those demons, it’s hard to not fear they won’t come back.

    But listen to Charlie, he speaks from experience. After, going through hell and back — one botched surgery — then one successful one — his life has changed.

    May I also suggest an Epilepsy Support Group, if there’s on nearby. It really helps a lot.

    Charlie started one in Quogue (because there was none) and I started one in a local hospital with the EFA putting up all kinds of barriers.

    This isn’t to pat Charlie or me on the back. But it is to say that support groups can be nurturing, supportive and helpful.

    Otherwise, try to surround yourself with positive people. Perhaps, some of that will rub off on you! (-:


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 25, 2012 @ 2:28 PM

  10. Since my 10th I have epilepsy, but never stopped doing sports and other “normal” things. I had some troubles at school about learning and having a bad tempare. On the age of 17th I have my firts visual seizure. No I am 50 and dispite of having epilepsy I run 6 marathons and other runs. Allso mountainbiking and other sports. My challenge is to do the 1/8 triathlon next year. On facebook I have some groups about epilepsy where people with or without epilepsy can comment. So don’t ever give it up, make a challege for yourself where you can life for. Hope my message is clear to everybody and know there is respect from your friends and dear ones. -ben- (from the netherland)


    Comment by Ben Visser — July 24, 2012 @ 2:31 AM

    • As you clearly say: you can either let epilepsy rule your life and become a victim — or you can chose to be the master of your own fate.

      Congratulations for choosing and living the latter.

      Have you tried any of these Facebook sites:

      Living with epilepsy
      EP Land
      Have a hot topic, question or suggestion you’d like to share?
      Epilepsy fighters (Speak your mind!)
      Epilepsy connection
      Epilepsy friends
      Epilepsy sucks (Battle on!)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 24, 2012 @ 10:13 AM

  11. I have written a book Jesus is and Was Always With Me It shows how having epilepsy Jusus is always there enen through brain surgery


    Comment by Gene McCann — August 9, 2012 @ 10:36 AM

  12. that is true, laughter is the best medicine.


    Comment by Ruth — April 16, 2013 @ 8:50 PM

  13. I can’t think of anything better. Except, maybe, being able to laugh at yourself! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 16, 2013 @ 10:32 PM

  14. Thanks for your wonderful Insight!


    Comment by Annmoffatt@comcast.net — October 20, 2014 @ 3:16 AM

  15. Sometimes you have to take lemons and make them into lemonade! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 20, 2014 @ 9:09 AM

  16. I had surgury about 20 years ago, and if I was told I needed to have surgury again, I would do it again without missing a heart beat. It scared me the 1st time and I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. I still have seizures every once in awhile when, I worry, or allow myself to get to tired and the seizures are only when I’m sleeping not while I’m awake. I’m here should anyone wants to talk to me. I am alive, I have a beautiful daughter, and 3 grandchildren.


    Comment by Eva H McCool — July 18, 2015 @ 7:20 PM

  17. Hats off to you Eva! Your attitude, optimisim and courage!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 18, 2015 @ 9:07 PM

  18. I recently started with Fycompa as add on theropy for my epilepsy. I hope it works for me. The side effects are leaving me now and I’m feeling more positive. I had no idea people with epilepsy could be so inflicted with so much depression and other mental disorders. Hopefully my life will soon start to look up after having so many auras and seizures throughout my life.
    Antidepressants only made things worse for me.
    I can only take ‘One day at a time’.


    Comment by Josephine Stevens — October 1, 2015 @ 11:56 PM

  19. Glad you’re off the antidepressants — since they didn’t seem to work for you. (Everyone’s different, as you know.)

    “One day at a time” seems sensible. And before you know it, it will be two days at a time!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 2, 2015 @ 9:26 AM

  20. Great article Phylis


    Comment by jennyme3062015 — February 14, 2016 @ 1:03 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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