By Rosie Walker of Successful Diabetes and Jen Nash of Positive Diabetes
Last Friday was International Happiness Day, a very enjoyable-sounding occasion when the world’s happiness quotient is focused on. People were asked on TV stations, radio and around the world ‘what makes you happy ?’ and contributed such aspects of their lives as children, long walks, sunsets and chocolate cake! One report on the BBC showed a café offering massage and laughter therapy to promote happiness!
All that may sound a bit trivial, obvious even, but there is a serious message behind the day, which is that more and more people, and younger people, report feeling lonely. Loneliness leads to isolation, low self esteem, a lack of self-worth and even feelings of not wanting to live anymore. It can also lead to physical ill health, which can all add up to a vicious circle of misery. Knowing this, the simple ways of trying to help make people happier, look much more important.
Happiness is also a factor in the ‘Emotional HBA1C’ – that’s HbA1c, but with the letters creating different meaning from the traditional. Recently, at Diabetes UK’s annual conference, we presented this emotional version, one where instead of being short for the medical terms ‘Haemoglobin’ and ‘A1c’, the letters stood for psychological factors which can also contribute to this all-important result, upon which so many decisions in diabetes care are made. However, these factors are often ignored in diabetes care services. We believe that being more aware of them can help people with diabetes and health professionals alike: Here’s what our HBA1C letters stood for, and why: .
Happiness: Being happier and relaxed – or, put another way, less stressed and distressed - can reduce blood glucose levels.
Balance: Looking after diabetes enough, in the face of all the pressures of ‘real life’, contributes to keeping a health balance which in turn influences blood glucose.
Attachment: Negative family experiences in early life can sometimes make it difficult later to look after diabetes and form relationships, including with health professionals. This might lead to less attention on diabetes care and, in turn, HbA1c.
1st things first: Being able to prioritise diabetes care, when it needs attention is likely to lead to better health. Diabetes can be thought of as a baby who demands the caregivers’ full attention, even when they are busy with something else. Working out how to look after the ‘diabetes baby’, however disliked, can positively affect the HbA1c result.
Curiosity: for the person to be curious about their own diabetes and identify the factors and strategies which work for them personally and they can cope with, makes a big difference to the end result of HbA1c.
For health professionals, these ‘emotional HBA1C’ factors give clues to how to create an environment in a consultation, meeting or education session, that pays attention and actively discusses how the person is coping emotionally as well as discussing the medical aspects. An example of a ‘health professional emotional HBA1C’ might look like this:
Help people to define their main issue of concern.
Be accepting of the person’s point of view.
Acknowledge feelings as well as practical content.
1 main idea or insight to take away from the encounter .
Concentrate on person’s agenda.
Our workshop was very well received and attended and we’ve created a full summary, including the participants’ reflections at the end and the slides we used to explain the ‘Emotional HBA1C’ in more detail and the evidence for it. We invited people to create their own ‘Emotional HBA1C’ of the aspects of diabetes they felt influenced the medical HbA1c, and use it in their life and work with diabetes. .
We invite you to download the workshop summary and we hope this new way of looking at HbA1c inspires you. If you decide to create your own ‘Emotional HBA1C’, perhaps you’d share it with us, here?
Wishing you happiness, today and for the future!