“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” ~ Martha Washington
Happiness simply put is a state of mind that is free from pain, unpleasantness and suffering. You feel good.
We are all striving for happiness but unfortunately few of us attain it.
We live in a privileged society, you’d think we’d be grinning ear to ear, all the time, no?
But the reality is that it seems we are leading desperate lives of mild dissatisfaction. Jumping between short bursts of happiness and long periods of neutral or unhappy moods.
I can prove this is true. On your way home tonight, take a look at everyone driving around you. You’ll discover mechanical beings possessed by vacant stares and scowls. Usually mixed with a flicker of confusion and sadness.
Honestly it’s watching World War Z, I thought I’d entered the zombie apocalypse.
It scared me a little. Then I took a moment to tune into my own presence and I shockingly realized that I was a zombie too, lost in my own mind with a slight determined scowl on my face.
What’s going on?
I don’t want to be this way and my guess is neither do you.
I decided to take action on the notion that I can make the choice to be happy. I am in complete control over this. The choice is mine alone.
So I decided to smile.
Its not complicated, you turn the corners of your mouth up, your cheeks raise and your eyes crinkle. You are happy.
It is normally a spontaneous reaction, but we can fake it, for now.
We can usually recognize a fake smile, the smile is crinkling the mouth but not the eyes.
But even if your smile is fake research suggests that there could be happiness benefits. It might not come from an internal happy feeling, but it might produce a happy feeling. This is opposite to how we normally look at happiness.
Research also suggests that smiling reduces harmful stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and increases hormones such as endorphins. Blood pressure is reduced, a sense of peace and well-being develops and simply put, you just feel happy.
Studies have shown that those who smile frequently tend to live longer healthier lives. Smiling will also influence the way others view you; you will be seen as polite, likeable and courteous.
These benefits all appeal to me, so while driving to work I sat up straight, felt the wheel under my hands and the vibration of the car. I opened up the window, took a breath of fresh air, and smiled, and guess what, I instantly became happy.
When you understand how happiness works, there is no point to being unhappy. Ever.
This isn’t an easy state of mind to obtain, and it’s possible that only a small collection of people will ever reach this state of enlightenment, but we can all work towards it and hopefully in the process enrich our lives.
We can choose to accept that to live means to suffer. There will be experiences that we deem as unpleasant, but like happy times, these un-pleasantries are impermanent. They too shall pass.
We don’t have to let every emotional feeling disrupt our inner peace. We can develop a positivity about life where events and experiences have no grip over us. We don’t have to scowl, we can choose to smile and brighten our own day and the day of everyone around us instead.
This understanding allows us to live freely and lightly.
Most us drive, its a perfect opportunity; leave a sticky note on your dashboard. Smile; it’s contagious, lets put an end to the zombie apocalypse.
Tina is a student of Buddhism, meditation and yoga. She writes about cultivating happiness through mindfulness at her own blog: Barefoot Beginnings.
Tina lives near cottage country in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two dogs. Also a vegetarian and animal lover she enjoys photography, travel and nature. But mostly she’s just a free spirit trying to follow the path.