Some of you might remember a song that came out in the late 80’s entitled Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin (checking out the video is totally worth the time in my opinion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU). When given the advice not to worry and be happy it can be easy to think, “Yeah, yeah, easier said than done,” or, “I don’t want to pretend I feel good when I don’t.” Now, while these statements are true, they are only true to a degree (like most things). As one of my favorite musicians sings: Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right (Ani Difranco).
Let’s address the first common thought: “Yeah, yeah, easier said than done.” Don’t worry, be happy is easier said than done for many of us, but why? It’s easier because many of us have practiced being unhappy for so very long. Our practice of being happy is not nearly as strong and disciplined as our resolve has been to worry, feel anxious, down, stressed out, angry, or overwhelmed. Many of us are really really good at being miserable and finding something to complain about. It may not seem like a choice to suffer but it really is.
The next common thought: “I don’t want to pretend I feel good when I don’t.” If this comes to mind for you when thinking of the advice not to worry and be happy think then about how often you honestly feel good. If the split looks something like this when thinking of a typical day or week: 70-99% of the time not feeling good, 1-30% of the time feeling good then I would direct your attention to the above paragraph. In other words, our minds are extremely tricky and can convince us that it is the suffering we feel that is real and authentic when in truth we have much more to be joyful and grateful about then we realize and fully understand. Maybe we’re actually pretending more to be unhappy!
How do we start practicing happiness? We can smile more. British researchers have found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate. Am I alone in thinking this is an amazing statistic? Probably not :) Smiling can help reduce the levels of stress enhancing hormones and increase the level of mood enhancing hormones and reduce blood pressure. Smiling is proven to benefit us in a multitude of ways. There is even evidence showing that the bigger we smile the longer we live. To check out the TED talk that sparked this blog post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9cGdRNMdQQ