I’m the oldest of two kids with an aging parent. My mom’s physical health is good, but she is just not a happy person. It’s been quite a challenge helping her through some difficult emotional times in her life. I’ve always been the one to cheer her up. It’s not easy.
My mom is a true pessimist. Everything is negative and nothing goes right. We will be driving into a parking lot and she will say, "There will be no parking spots." She’ll be cooking and say, "I just can’t cook." I think because she is so negative, she’s never happy.
I’m the complete opposite. I think I can do anything. I’m a true optimist. I think because I am positive, I’m generally happy.
I also have a number of single friends who struggle with depression. They are taking anti-depressant to help them cope with their lives. Two are depressed because they are single and lonely. They definitely don’t want to be in Guyland.
I have one single girl friend who is high on life. No drugs, just always positive, smiling and basically happy.
I was wondering if there is more to happiness than someone’s outlook on life? Is there something more basic to happiness?
I was taking a yoga class recently and my teacher suggested we smile during a difficult pose. I tried it. It felt a little strange since I really wasn’t feeling like smiling, but needed my poker face to focus my energy on the pose. I have to say the smile did help me get through the pose.
I found out yoga believers say there is no separation between the mind and the body. If you are smiling, the brain thinks you are happy. Even a fake smile can trick your mind to think you are happy. The mind and body work together, each following the other. The smile releases endorphins into the brain which makes you feel happy. You feel happy, you smile.
There’s a smile study that takes the fake smile a step further by manipulating the facial muscles to create the happy feelings associated with a smile without actually smiling. Pretty strange, but it worked!
I decided to do my only little study with strangers. I took the subway and kept a big smile on my face. It felt a little funny, but I just kept thinking happy thoughts and it wasn’t such a challenge. Anytime I made eye contact with someone, they smiled back! I felt pretty good releasing so many endorphins into my brain and I made alot of people smile!
A recent study by Harvard Medical School confirmed that when you are smiling, the whole world really does smile with you. And, not only is smiling contagious but so is happiness. The study found:
- Happy people tended to be at the center of social networks and had many friends who were also happy. Having friends or siblings nearby increased people’s chances of being upbeat.
- Happiness spread outward by three degrees, to the friends of friends of friends.
- Happy spouses helped, too, but not as much as happy friends of the same gender. Experts think people, particularly women, take emotional cues from people who look like them.
- Happy friend boosts your own chances of being happy by 9 percent. Having grumpy friends decreases it by about 7 percent.
- Happiness seemed to spread more consistently than unhappiness. But that doesn’t mean you should drop your gloomy friends.
- Happy also brings other benefits, including a protective effect on your immune system so you produce fewer stress hormones.
- Being around happy people is better than a chunk of money.
Gretchen Rubin, author of soon to be published "The Happiness Project" has been "test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study she can find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On her daily blog, she recounts some of her adventures and insights as she grapples with the challenge of being happier."
Her tips for being happy:
- To be happier, you need to think about FEELING GOOD, FEELING BAD, and FEELING RIGHT, in an atmosphere of growth. Clunky, but it works.
- One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
After all this research, could the simple act of smiling help my mom and my single friends? Studies have found that people who are depressed have weaker smiling muscles. They need to "exercise" their smiling muscles. There’s actually a smiling therapy that has shown to help people who are depressed.
Need a little help to get started? There’s a web site that you can subscribe to that will send you GOOD news and thoughts every day to make you smile!
Smile and be happy? It works for me!