Tuesday 9 June 2015

Smile if you want to be happy.

I am, alas, an unfortunate fan of sociological magazines, such as the much trumpeted: Pacific Standard.

Such high brow publications always talk about these obtuse studies, where people are asked to think or write about some distant past situation, in their short and no doubt meaningful earthly existence. The unwitting-subjects-of-these-experiments' subsequent decisions? They are compromised by these purposely engineered prior thought crimes, and sociological conclusions are quite rapidly drawn on everything from social exclusion, power and poverty to the effectiveness of game theory.

Think about a time when little old you were... gasp... socially excluded, and you, yes, you - with the crooked smile and the coffee stained teeth, are statistically likely to become... wait for it... more likeable.

Think about when you were weak, and you will gain empathy for those in a pinch.

People who think of others as their superiors - are better able to read their emotions. When told a picture is of an inferior, it becomes perplexingly difficult for the people - inevitably called 'subjects' - to read the emotions of the lads and lasses in those same pictures.

Think about yourself as smart, and you lose intelligence in subsequent test results, but think of your humble little muggins as trying hard, and always doing your best, and your results in tests somehow go up.

When, as a young boy, I moved to a new school... I moved from the government syllabus to the posh IEB, and along with it, to a school outsiders called... 'snobbish' - at the best of times. It was not a pleasant shift, needless to say.

One of the girls in my class once did a thoroughly boring prepared-speech on none other than 'happiness'.

She said that smiling itself caused the systems in the human body to magically release those special chemicals that cause happiness. I left that class with a fake smile, and faked happiness that day, until I was a happy lil' chap.

Life being as it is, I soon returned to blank expressions, and held to that for a few years, way back when... but c'est la vie, especially when moving to a different school.

Besides, I prefer to see my emotions as alarm bells, warnings of something that my subconscious mind has secretly picked up upon, and that poor old inobservant me just hasn't picked up yet... I would rather be genuinely sad, than peppy happy, any day of the week except Sunday. I do believe I am genuinely happy, but that does not mean a few thought crimes don't sometimes help me become better at what I need to achieve.

Actors will teach you something similar, they say that if you want to be successful, pretend you already are. Your posture changes how you view the world. It also changes how others view you in a given moment. The most annoying opponent is one who smiles when they lose a game. The absolute worst, is one who encourages you when you miss the ball, and insists on wishing you the best of luck.

Returning to those ridiculous, yet bizarrely effective, thought experiments that the inevitable sociology obsessives gravitate to...

Put a pencil in your mouth, so as to force yourself to smile. You will be less critical of what you are reading or being told at that moment... try doing so while reading this very article, and await that spinning wheel television shows portray as hypnosis. You will be an optimist, or more so, if you insist upon a breakneck speedy smile.

P.S. dear reader, you being less critical at such a critical moment, will not prevent your nearby colleagues from being critical of you, for your use of a pencil (hopefully your own): as what they might, for-some-unknown-reason, perceive as a chew toy.

Frown heavily now, and you will spot far more errors. I often enjoy a hardy frown, and a bit of bitter coffee... when it comes time to edit my tremendous or horrendous prose... it works wonders that a smile never could.

So, back to those lessons that unfortunate aspiring actors do get at sub-par-and-above schools of the arts...

By mimicking powerful or successful people, actors do something they don't even notice at first. Think of the first time a beautiful lass or two said she loved you (or, for the ladies, and those so oriented, the first time a lad did... mutatis mutandis, and all). Your posture will straighten. You will smile from ear to ear.

Just, as going to sleep at a certain time, will set and reset your biological clock, smiling from ear to ear, even without those champagne bubble memories, and standing up straight - along with that - will undoubtedly affect your internal confidence and happiness clocks.

The saying that you should treat everyone you meet as an old friend, in order to curry their favour (stop being so diabolical, dear reader) - also seems to ring true. What we think, and the way we behave, influences our mind and the behaviour of others.

So, if you are not feeling particularly confident, after you phoned up that first girl... or lad - who ever said s/he loved you - and s/he quite politely told you that s/he just isn't whatsoever interested in you anymore...

Pretend you are a puppet on a string, being held up by the top of your head, or that you are hanging on for dear life - by a wooden beam between your teeth.

Mind you, in the second example, don't put your teeth to the sky: have your face at exactly 90% from the ground... otherwise, it just looks a tad strange. In fact, so strange, that you might be socially excluded by your colleagues... priming you effectively for the coming example about social exclusion.

On that sour note, read on, to just another sociology topic...

When you next meet someone new, think of a time your were socially excluded from some portion of society - one that you so desperately wanted to be included with... statistics analysis suggests you will be more charming as a result.

Perhaps, you might be thinking to yourself - you should have done so before you called up that first lass/lad/etc who - once upon a blue moon - said she... or he... or s/he... loved you. Maybe you would have been just charming enough to reignite the inexplicable spark she... or he... once somehow - for no reason you can ever seem to comprehend - felt.

So, sit up straight in your chair, and pretend you love your day job as much as you love hearing other people say they love you. You might just become more focussed on your work, and you might just get that promotion you always wished you had. You might also not, but isn't it worth a try?

In the very least, you might find that you visit your physiotherapist or chiropractor just a pinch less, and are far happier now that you have that extra bit of cash to spend. Sitting up straight can, somehow or other, do wonders for your posture.

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