Tuesday, November 30, 2010

my #1 happiness tip

Just smile.

It's that simple. Those days, or moments - and I am sure you have them too - when I feel petulant or miserable, I force myself to smile. A big, wide, toothy smile. I usually take the time to do so on the way to whatever it is I am about to do, whether it is a meeting, a shift at work, a tutorial at uni, lunch with a friend, a date with my boyfriend... just contorting my lips into an upwards curve, which gradually, miraculously, makes me feel lighter and happier. 

There is, of course, a scientific explanation for the phenomenon. The act of smiling releases endorphins and seratonin, which gives us an immediate sense of well-being. I think there is a further benefit, though, other than the biological aspect. Smiling through my tears, anger or hurt makes me realise that my unhappiness is rarely, if ever, the result of terrible things happening to me - but, rather, a reluctance to be happy... usually because I am feeling acutely weary or nurturing a penchant for self-pity.

It's not that I think that unhappiness is something to be shirked at all costs. Sarah Wilson has written a couple of lovely posts about why it is perfectly okay to be sad. (Here and here, the latter is my favourite.) Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, after all. Sometimes it is really devastating and completely unfair and utterly irritating. Hiding, disguising or pushing aside our true feelings can be exhausting and honesty can be a good, healthy thing... best utilised, I think, when we are alone, or with those close to us.  

But there are, without a doubt, times when being sad is not conducive. Like when we have work to do. Or when we are celebrating somebody else's special day. Or when our lover arrives home from a long day at work. Or when we have to interact with perfectly innocent bystanders who don't deserve our wrath. It is those times, and many others, when the right thing to do is to rise above our melancholy and plaster a smile on our faces. Because that is all it can take, sometimes, to be happy. 

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."
— Maori Proverb


allanah said...

Lovely post! Gretchen Rubin talks about smiling here, http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2010/11/easy-happiness-booster-smile.html, too.
It's true how it can instantly lift the mood of yourself or another.

I thought of the Charlie Chaplin song, "Smile",when I read this: "Smile, what's the use of crying? You'll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile..."

Anonymous said...

To true, love, it's one of the easiest things to do and something everyone can relate to and do. I think it's the happiness tip I've been telling myself the longest, because it's the easiest and you can't over think that one...Love, Jules