Archived Story

Learn Happiness

Published 5:45pm Friday, June 13, 2014

I stumbled onto the secret of a happy life at an early age.
I was an awkward, didn’t-fit-in kind of teenager; frustrated, anti-social and kind of mad at the world when I began my freshman year at Tuscaloosa High School.
And then one day, for some inexplicable reason, an idea passed through my mind and I actually paid attention. It was a simple idea, almost too simple to be true: if I want to be happy, I should smile.
I remember walking through the hallways at Tuscaloosa High School forcing myself to smile. And you know what? People in the hallways started to smile back at me.
In a short time, my smile started to turn my social life around. People regularly asked me what I was smiling about.
My attitude became more positive, more can-do and more confident. I began to at least consider the bright side – the silver lining – in every situation. I laughed a whole lot more and began enjoying life more, all because I decided to do so.
As a result of that simple behavior modification, I wound up a lot less awkward with a lot more friends.
I was not nearly as frustrated on a day-to-day basis; instead I was pleased and hopeful for the world. I’m living proof that a bright smile can cut through darkness.
I was speaking to a friend Friday who made a rather snippy remark about the state of business in Alexander City; a remark that forced her to admit that “maybe there was still some bitterness” lingering inside her about Russell Corp.’s demise.
Carrying around bitterness about losing our town’s greatest asset is certainly understandable. It hurt many deeply.
But carrying around bitterness hurts the carrier.
It’s time to let that bitterness go, Alexander City.
I’m not sure why a single comment reminded me of my freshman year, but now almost 40 years later, I realize that simple lesson was the most important thing I learned in high school, despite the best intentions of Mrs. English, my poorly-named French teacher.
In my case, it came down to one word: Smile.
Look on the bright side – look for a bright side. It might sound Pollyannaish, but that doesn’t prevent it from being true, healthy and helpful. There’s been plenty of research that proves it.
I’m tossing smiling, laughter and thinking positively into the same big category, but hey, that’s how it worked for me and, according to the Mayo Clinic, that’s the way it works for humans in general.
Mayo says a good laugh can lighten your load mentally while it enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases endorphins released by your brain.
It relieves stress, stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation all immediately.
Developing a long-term habit of laughter improves your immune system, relieves pain, increases personal satisfaction, lessons depression and anxiety and makes you feel happier.
Mayo says positive thinking and optimism can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, increase your life span, ward off the common cold, produce better psychological and physical well-being.
Raise your hand if you’d like a double dose of that.
Boone is publisher of The Outlook.

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