23 Feb Choose Happiness
You’ve heard people go on and on about how we are in control of our own happiness. The slogan, “Choose Happiness,” is on everything from t-shirts to charm bracelets (I own one).
It has almost become a bit of a cliche and, for too many of us, it is easier said than done! I’m sure the Debbie Downers of the world are “choosing” to exit from this blog about now.
But hold on folks…
There is actual scientific evidence that you CAN CHOOSE to be happy. Really. You can.
In fact, while doing my post-graduate study in psychology (long, long, long ago,) I researched and wrote a mid-term paper on the subject. It was titled, “Smile, It Changes Brain Chemistry.” And although I had always been genetically optimistic and chemically happy, the knowledge I gained from the research changed the way I handled the more troubling times that came my way.
It made me realize that we are not just leaves in the wind, blown whichever way the breezes (see the blog, When Life Hands You Lemons (Or Limes)…) decide to blow us. Our destiny on this planet, and our ability to be happy, is not merely based on what happens to us. We DO have a lot more control than we think over our own happiness.
It starts with a simple physical movement, something we’ve done our entire lives, and even newborn babies do while they sleep. It starts, my friends, with a smile. Yep, that’s it. That’s the secret recipe. Simple, right?
I know what you are thinking: it doesn’t make sense. In the chicken and egg of it all, we’ve been taught that we smile because we are happy, and we frown because we are sad. But this cause and effect is actually a two-way street. There is substantial evidence that the physical act of smiling changes your brain chemistry and causes you to be happy.
The theory was introduced in the 19th century by Darwin, who claimed that facial expressions not only reflect emotions, but they cause them as well. It seems Darwin was on to something. Since then, studies at Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley (to name a few) have continued to explore this field. Recently, this particular research field has gained even more popularity due to the growing use of Botox (that’s right, BOTOX), resulting in an extensive subject pool with a chemically limited ability to frown (See the blog, Botox Part 1).
I had long forgotten (and most likely lost) that grad school mid-term paper. However, I internalized the information I’d researched long ago, and “Smile, it changes brain chemistry” became my little slogan to those of my friends and family who were feeling “blue.”
I must admit, “Choose Happiness” looks so much better on a coffee mug!
I am still smiling,
and you should too.