Disclaimer: No one has cornered the market on happiness, and the approaches I discuss are simply one man’s humble opinions. Happiness is a journey. You don’t have to be there, but instead, make it destination, and a goal within your journey…
How many times in your life have you received a phone call, or passed someone on the street who asked you, “How are you doing?” I’m curious how you answer that question. I’m sure you are probably asked that question every day, and often multiple times in a day. I’ve heard all kinds of answers to that rather trite question:
- “Hanging in there.” That’s for people who want you to know they are struggling.
- “Okay.” That’s for people who don’t want to answer the question.
- “Same old, same old” or, “I can’t complain.” That’s for people who are too lazy to even attempt an answer the question.
I’m going to let you perform a small experiment involving me. Next time you have me on the phone, or walk by me, ask me how I’m doing. You’ll almost always get the same answer, and it usually catches people by surprise. As a matter of fact, I’ve had a number of people smile and tell me they never heard this particular answer to that question before. For close to thirty years, my answer has always been the same: “I’m happy.”
Am I always happy when I give that answer? I’ll never tell, but I will tell you that one reason I’m giving that answer is so I can hear myself say it. It is really an answer to remind myself to be happy. Often when I give my answer, I hear the follow-up question; “Well, what’s making you happy?!” Frequently, I don’t actually know the answer because I’m trained to respond the way I do. I can guarantee you, though, that I’ll give you an answer. What I’m really doing is forcing myself to immediately think of something that’s making me happy… and that exercise helps me to keep looking for the good things in my life.
Can acting happy actually make you happy? Yes! There have been experiments in which people have been asked to manipulate their faces into a smiling facial expression. Instruments are attached as they are told to turn up the corners of their mouth, and they actually do feel happier when they put on a happy face.
A similar situation, when a little reminder can help us, is regarding our posture. For those like me who try to improve their posture, it’s easy to forget that we’re slouching. Each time you walk by a mirror and see that slightly slumping body, you are reminded to stand up straight. That quick glance at yourself gives you the reminder to stand up. In much the same way as that glance in the mirror, the question, “How are you doing” can help you to remember to be positive and think of something making you happy in your life. Trigger phrases like, “How are you doing” are perfect for the job.
Sometimes we can create our own reminders. How often do you look at your watch? I wore a Mickey Mouse watch for almost 15 years. It had nothing to do with any strange fascination with the Disney machine. I wore it because I knew that each, and every time I looked at my watch, I would be reminded to be happy. It’s hard to see Mickey’s white mitts pointing in various angles and not smile a little bit. If that’s too “old school” for you, consider the screen saver on your computer, the background on your smart phone, or even a well placed message by your desk.
Should you run out and get a Mickey Mouse watch, or change how you answer questions from others? Not necessarily. But research shows, and I firmly believe acting happy is one of the key ingredients in being happy. Going through the motions can trigger the emotion. All you need to do is figure out ways to remind yourself of the blessings you have in life, and to think happy thoughts. That’s not such a tough job is it?