Sometimes I have to actually remind myself to smile. Don’t get me wrong! I have plenty to smile about! I have healthy kids who just happen to be great human beings. I’m married to the love of my life (26 years!). In spite of hearing loss and Meniere’s disease I have what I feel like is a good “game plan”. I have coping skills that work – most of the time. But you know something? I still forget to smile.
Why I Forget…
1. I get too busy
I stay busy to give myself a sense of purpose. A bored Denise, one with too much time on my hands, is a depressed Denise. It’s not that I don’t take the necessary time to decompress, meditate, and think deeply. I do! But there is a “fine line” between taking time to do these things and having too much time to do these things.
Staying busy helps me to feel purposeful and even necessary. I hope to one day get to the point where I can be less busy and still feel purposeful. But heck… even my favorite scripture verses and quotes are ones about being productive and busy! However, I can get SO busy, I forget to actually enjoy the things I am doing. I forget to smile. Happiness is often a CHOICE, but if I get too busy I may forget to make that choice.
2. I’m hanging out with negative people
Sometimes it cannot be helped. You may work with negative people. Geesh. You may LIVE with negative people. It takes a special kind of person for that not to rub off on you eventually. Ever walk into a room extremely content and happy with life and run into a sour puss? Negative vibes may just ooze out of their pores. And darn, but if they didn’t set their sights on you and pin you down to complain. I’ve left the company of folks feeling shell-shocked. It can be hard to be with these people, yet I also believe that I need to take opportunities to minister to them if I can. It may be just listening. It may be that I can let them know I’ll pray for them. Yet, I certainly do not seek these people out to deliberately spend time with them.
Back when letters were still written (instead of email or FaceBook messages), I remember cringing when I would get a letter from a “certain someone”. Their news was never good news. Talk about a wet blanket. It was hard to plow through all the negative lines penned by this very sad person, but I also felt compassion for them as I knew it had to be a hard way to live.
The thing about negativity though is that it is very contagious. It matters not if you’ve recently been vaccinated. Few of us have the antibodies to fight off this contagious infection if we have to be with folks like this. I really do try to limit what time I spend with people like this. It can be hard if you must see them often though. I have a friend who is married to a negative soul. She loves him. But with premeditation, she must find time away from him during the week to spend time with people who are not like he is. He has become “less” negative through the years, but I doubt he’ll ever change completely. To combat being drug down into the same pity parties, she has to find people to insulate her to negative thinking. It works for her.
Why It Can be Hard to Smile, but Necessary
One of my good friends has fibromyalgia. Frankly, it is really difficult for her to smile on days her body is in a full “fibro flare”. She does some things to help during these times as she doesn’t want to go throughout the day ROARING at everyone. She loves eating a Wendy’s Frosty and she only has one when she is having a bad pain day. She has “feel good” music that she listens to in the car if she has to go out. She has a stack of favorite books that she only reads when she has to curl up into a ball of pain and “deal with it”. She has cats and claims they are therapeutic. She has a short list of people she will call when she is sobbing and needs a smile. She has a plan. She knows how important it is to smile through the pain (her words, not mine).
Earlier I said that happiness is a choice. This is actually the title of one of my favorite books by Minirth & Meier. Joy is different than happiness. I believe that joy is a heart emotion. We can be sad at the graveside of a loved one, with tears raining down our faces, yet feel joy. Joy for the life they lived and memories you have with them. A person can have joy and have just lost their job, their boyfriend, or their goldfish. But happiness? Happiness is a choice. Sometimes we have to choose to be happy EVEN WHEN IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
This doesn’t mean it is fake. A deliberate choice to smile and be happy is simply a proactive way to entice our thinker to change our feeler. It’s not magic. It’s not a secret formula. Nope! I am not saying that we should never belly-ache, cry, scream, or throw things. (Well, perhaps the last we can let go of forever, hmmm?)
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
16th president of US (1809 – 1865)
I don’t know your story. I do not walk in your shoes. I do know that my own shoes are not always comfortable. They can leave blisters. We can get in a habit of thinking negatively and in frowning. I know I have done this myself. I may have to leave myself notes or messages to “smile more”.
I don’t always do this perfectly. Sometimes invisible illness and disability wipe out my happiness savings account. At various times, I have had to seek counseling to really get back on track. Perhaps I’ve let myself go to long without smiling? There’s no shame in having to receive help in remembering HOW and WHY to smile.
Smiling may be like the Red Cross to a person in need. Smiling may make someone’s day. Someone may be having a bigger poopy day than you are. Even my dogs respond to a smile with a tail wag. Frankly? I like to see other folk’s tails wag. Smiling sends a message – a positive one. Maybe I’ve taken too many classes on Cognitive Psychology, but I truly believe how we think can change how we feel. So I believe we have to really work on thinking positively. I try to make my face match my self talk. Smile, Denise… smile! Make it a habit and you may eventually feel the corners of your heart tug up in an answering grin as well.
I’ll leave you with an oldie – but one I think says a great deal about why we should smile. You may even need to make a note to “self”.
© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal