The substitute teacher across the hall caught my eye today and said, “There you are again! Always smiling!” It’s true. I usually am.
Perhaps smiling is my default expression, one I come by naturally. I can’t think back on my Dad without seeing his big bright smile. I still hear my Mom’s laughter when I remember my time with her. Even my Mom’s handwritten letters always included little smiley faces, long before emojis became a thing. Thirty-six years ago when I first met my husband, his smile and laughter were the first of his attributes that attracted me. My daughters have beautiful smiles. My son’s smile is one of my favorites.
Science studies have increased supporting that a smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. The study of emotions is most interesting and I frequently follow published and casual discussions around the topic of happiness. I experiment with happiness strategies too. For the past 100 days I’ve again practiced the 100happydays.com challenge. This challenge takes me from the weary final days of winter to the first warm afternoons of springtime. Whether documenting family gatherings, good meals, beautiful flowers, or satisfying work, I’ve taken time each day to focus on the fun, the joy, the appreciation and gratitude I feel.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes struggle with darker emotions. Of course I do. I cannot always smile. I am sometimes sad. I miss my parents, I miss grandparents, I miss my three children being little and scrambling onto my lap. Although not very often, I sometimes do get angry. Internet trolls, dishonesty, selfishness, sneakiness, injustice, gossip, and arrogance can make me seethe. I am also a worrier. I fret. I have a hard time getting out of my own head. I sometimes need a nap to give my head, my heart, and my soul a rest. Movies and books help me immensely. I tend to sigh a lot too. Sighing gives me a brief little bit of time to settle, to refocus, to take a deep breath. And when people’s actions frustrate me, I remember a former colleague’s laughter and his words, “People are funny, aren’t they?!” There was never any judgement in this statement of his. He simply would state the fact: people are funny.
Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. --Mother Teresa
This annual 100happydays.com challenge is sometimes difficult but as with the building of any habit, I’ve practiced this one (for five years) and I have become pretty skilled at it. In fact, the challenge of 100 days doesn’t truly end for me anymore. 365 days a year I demand from myself the act of “keeping a positive perspective”. I think about people, either reliving a sweet conversation, or remembering, often with a chuckle, the all-too-human foibles I witness in myself and/or in those around me. I continue reading others’ faces as I check in on how they are feeling, and yes, I continue to smile often and easily. Although studies say that even a fake or forced smile can benefit one’s health, my smile is genuine. I smile because I am thankful. I smile because I care about this world and its inhabitants. I smile because I appreciate life. I smile because I feel happy. I smile because I can.
Life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you. --Peace Pilgrim