Smile! Everyone tells you to do it. If you are sad, in a bad mood, or having a terrible day, you are told to smile. We also smile to cover things up. If you fall on your ass, get nervous, or realize how absurd life can be, we may choose to smile, or laugh it off.
Smiling is totally natural, and as all facial expressions are, it is known across cultures as a sign of happiness or joy. But why, when we are not at all happy, are we told to, or encouraged to smile? It seems so absurd and against nature… why would we smile when all we want to do is scream or cry or fall onto the floor in a full-blown tantrum?!
The answer can be found in a study, the bottom line is, smiling makes people happier. How do we know? Well, there was a study conducted to see if smiling affected how participants rated comics. One group of participants was told to hold a pencil in their lips while reading comics. In this group, the participants appeared to be frowning. The other group of participants was told to hold a pencil in their teeth while reading comics. In this group, the participants appeared to be smiling. At the end of the study, it was found that the participants who were told to hold the pencil in there teeth (smiling) rated the comics as funnier than the group who held the pencil in their lips (frowning)!
This is only one study, and I am sure there are more, but the evidence seems pretty clear. I know that when I am in a terrible mood, and someone tells me to smile, I want to bash their face and run away crying. Maybe you feel this way too. But next time maybe instead of seeing this person as unreasonable and insensitive, you can take their advice, and go smile at a fence, or some inanimate object… see how you feel.
How we are raised makes us who we are, in part. Also how we respond to how we are raised, our personalities, media influences, etc. Right now, I am considering the smaller influences. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about bullying, especially when it comes to gay rights issues. I found myself digging deep, wondering where this comes from. Sure, some of it may be parental or peer influence, but where else does it come from? I began to think of the core of bullying. Kids who get bullied are generally different from other kids… they may be extra smart, a different ethnicity, or of another sexual orientation… you name it, differences stand out. Something disturbing popped into my head at this point. I remember a long time ago, watching Sesame Street… totally innocent, right? Well the characters on the show were playing a game where they found the object that didn’t belong. The objects were lined up in a row, and the one that “didn’t belong” was taken away. For example, there may have been a row of four square objects and one circle. Doesn’t this seem wrong? Sure, we can look at it as a simple mental exercise or learning technique… but is it really just that? Kids are learning that something which is different doesn’t belong with everything else. Sure, we can look at this as a simple child’s game… but I think we need to question it as well.
Is there really a such thing as altruism? Do we ever do things for others solely for that person? I am having a difficult time saying yes to this. I like to think that people are altruistic at times, and that they do things without themselves in mind… but deep down, aren’t we always doing things for ourselves? I really enjoy helping others out. When I am home, I try to do the dishes or help out in other ways… but generally, if I don’t do these things, I feel like an ass. So really, aren’t I helping others so that I don’t feel bad about myself? When I see that someone is sad, I want to help them cheer up because it makes me feel bad that they are feeling bad. So if I help cheer them up, am I not also cheering myself up in the process? I can even go as far as to argue a more extreme example: if someone threw themselves in front of a bus to save another person, could they have lived with seeing another human being die in front of them? I still like to think that there is pure altruism out there… but is it?