Put on a happy face—and you’ll be happy

Years ago, my mother had an acquaintance who seemed to be especially blue.
Now my mother wasn’t a psychologist, but I always valued her advice. Her advice to this acquaintance was to bake a batch of cookies when you feel blue.
When she told me that story, I understood for the first time why we had so many delicious homemade cookies.
My mother had reason to be blue. Her husband died way too young and she couldn’t imagine living without him. Her diary entry that day was a simple “I lost my best friend today,” followed by weeks of silence.
After her husband died, my mother had a difficult decision to make—to work where her children lived or stay in her home community. She decided to move near her children, which took her to Rochester, N.Y., Edmonton, Alta., and finally central Kansas.
She loved every place she went. But at the same time, she always missed her sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, and long-time friends from upstate New York—and especially her beloved Nick.
Later in life, when she couldn’t sleep at night, she sometimes baked cookies at 3 a.m.
Baking cookies when she was blue was just one of her life strategies to make herself happy. Another was “putting on a front” as she called it. She smiled and laughed whether she felt like it or not.
In other words, she “put on a happy face” as the song says.
Sung by Albert Peterson in “Bye Bye Birdie,” the words are “Gray skies are gonna clear up/Put on a happy face/Brush off the clouds and cheer up/Put on a happy face/Take off that gloomy mask of tragedy/Put on a happy face.”
We have all been hit by tragedies, but my mother knew instinctively that putting on a happy face made her happier. Now scientific research corroborates what she felt intuitively.
Studies show that if you act happy, you’ll be happy, according to David Myers, the author of “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
Says Myers, it turns out that happiness is an inside job. It has little to do with our circumstances and everything to do with how we respond to our circumstances.
We can act ourselves into a frame of mind, suggests Myers. Smiling sends signals to your brain to alter your mood.
So if you force a smile or a laugh, it will contribute to your well-being. And after all, that’s what happiness is—a sense of well-being that makes you feel good.
So if you put on a happy face and act happy, chances are you’ll soon be happy.
And if you need a reminder to act happy, the Internet newsletter “Seniors Unlimited” has a suggestion. Keep a rubber band close by and use it to snap yourself out of the blues.
A quick snap on the back of your hand will remind you to put on a happy face.
So if you want to be happy, act happy. Happiness is what you do in your own heart. No one else can make you happy. Even when you don’t feel like smiling or laughing, fake it.
Because always remember—think happy, act happy, and you will be happy.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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