It’s time to adjust our attitudes.
Click for AUDIO version.
There hasn’t been a lot to smile about lately. Our economy is still fragile, we’re awash in debt, and the tensions in the country are reminiscent of the time prior to Lincoln’s ascent to the presidency. The media paints a dark image of business, our country, and the world in general. This caused me to consider what makes us smile in the first place. If we understood it better, perhaps we can find a way to elevate our spirits.
In thinking about this, I identified seven areas that cause us to smile:
1. The accomplishments and antics of our family and friends. For example, parents watch their offspring in the classroom, athletic fields, and creative arts. When a child brings home a good report card, a trophy, or have performed well in a recital, parents beam with pride. Harmless mischief also brings a smile to their faces. The success of family and friends always cheers us up, but their failures and tragedies sadden us as well.
2. Closely related is the concept of Achievement and Recognition. Winning a game, solving a puzzle, or answering a trivia question can be very rewarding to the psyche. We get the same feeling when we perform a job masterfully, or watch someone who knows what they are doing and delivers a fine work product. For such situations, a compliment can stroke the ego, be it applause or a simple pat on the back with the exclamation, “Well done!”
We also experience triumph when we close a sale, teach a course, or produce something others thought impossible.
Being recognized for something you did can make a person feel special. I have a friend who took a dozen women, including his wife, on a local boat trip. As the only male on the boat, the ladies made a fuss over him for taking them out, which he appreciated.
A compliment or a tip tells a person their hard efforts have not gone unnoticed.
3. Something that brings back a fond memory; be it an old song, a voice from our past, discovering some memorabilia, or revisiting an old stomping ground. Seeing an old friend or schoolmate from our past is a sure way to bring a smile to our face, or perhaps nothing more than a note or e-mail from the person. It means you are remembered and hold a special place in their heart.
4. Interpersonal relations. Simple companionship is rewarding as you share the same interests with someone as opposed to observing them alone. Social and fraternal relations are likewise important where we can meet and discuss subjects of mutual interest. Exchanging pleasantries with people we meet during the day can pick up the spirits of another. With me, its kidding with clerks and waitresses, thereby showing respect for their work, as opposed to denigrating them. Over the years, I have found simple social pleasantries can not only pick up the spirits of another, but improves service in the process. I guess it goes back to the old proverb, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
5. Nature. Time and again, I have seen people marvel at God’s creations; be it the Grand Canyon, Alaska, watching a bald eagle swoop down to catch a fish, or see a bear or moose for the first time in the wild.
6. Food. This has to go into a category by itself. I have seen the smell and appearance of food change the deportment of the crankiest person. The smell of such things as an oven roasted turkey, a pot roast, a cake, or a simple bowl of chili can put a smile on anyone’s face. Want to see someone quickly change their disposition, just ask them about their favorite restaurants and ask what was so special about the food.
7. Humor and entertainment. A good joke, a fine musical performance, or a good motion picture can make us happy, but it all has to be in tune with our values and morality. For example, I can listen to just about any music, but I draw the line at Rap. As to jokes, because of our politically correct culture, I haven’t heard a good one in years. However, I have quite a repertoire of jokes from forty years ago.
So why aren’t we smiling much anymore?
* Maybe our friends and family are not enjoying success, and having difficulty surviving in these troubled times.
* Perhaps we no longer see anyone trying to perform a job to the best of their ability.
* It could be, all of the memories we cherished have been forgotten or buried by another generation.
* Maybe we no longer know how to be civil with others; we no longer know how to make polite chit-chat.
* Or perhaps we are so busy, we no longer take the time to explore the world around us.
* We have perhaps lost interest in culinary fare.
* Maybe we no longer understand the humor and entertainment of today’s generation.
* Or perhaps we no longer see or hear anything positive going on in the world, or worse, we no longer know how to enjoy life.
Whatever the problem is, it is time to dig down and make an effort to smile and as Jimmy Durante sang, “Smile, what’s the use of cryin’. You’ll find that life is still worth while, If you just smile.”
Keep the Faith!