We say and probably hear these words a lot, but how many of us actually mean them?
More to the point, how many of us really believe that it’s within our power to have a great day?
Most of us wake up every morning and have no idea what to expect. At best, we’re ambivalent about the good things that may come our way and, at worst, we mentally prepare ourselves for nightmare scenarios ÔÇô irate supervisors, long queues and people generally being rude to us.
Life feels overwhelming and beyond our control.
But having a great day is a choice. All it takes is a decision on your part to make it so.
If you don’t know why you should bother, especially if you still see yourself as powerless in the face of so many challenges, here’re a few good reasons that might convince you to try.
The first is, your days make up your life and if you spend most of them living in fear or torment; or waiting for something good to happen before you’ll be happy, then your life is wasted.
Our ultimate goal in life is to be happy. Everything we want – whether it’s more money or a new job – is because we believe we’ll be happier once we have it. But we can decide to be happy while we pursue our goals, and hold the faith that they’ll materialise at the right time.
The second reason is, the happiness we experience every days affects not just the quality, but the quantity, of our lives. Yes, our positivity can influence how long we live.
Consider this study conducted in 1930, where Catholic nuns were asked to write a short essay comprising various aspects, such as their childhood, religious experience and their reasons for joining the Order.
Decades later in 2001, researchers reviewed the essays and assessed how much positive versus negative emotion they contained, as determined by the words used by the nuns.
By the 1990s, it was found that about 40 percent of the nuns had died. Those that were still alive were those who’d had a high degree of positive emotional content in their essays. On average, the happy nuns lived around ten years longer than the less happy nuns.
Your own happiness now can result in a longer life. All it takes are a few simple changes.
For instance, how do you interpret the not-so-great events in your life? If you lose a business opportunity, in your mind, do you translate that as, ‘I’ll never get ahead in such corrupt and nepotistic society?’ Or do you tell yourself that, ‘there’re countless opportunities out there; and the perfect opportunity is coming my way?’
What about if someone is rude to you? Do you think, ‘they look down on me and think I’m unworthy?’ Or do you say to yourself, ‘they’re probably feeling disempowered; and are trying to make themselves feel better the only way they know how?’ An optimistic interpretation of mundane events has a positive impact your days, and your life.
Did you know that even your smile can predict the longevity of your life, or whether or not you’ll get divorced?
There’re different kinds of smiles.
For instance, we smile when we’re happy, nervous or embarrassed. We even smile when we’re lying.
But in human beings, we generally distinguish between two types of smiles: the Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles, named after the French anatomist, Guillaume Duchenne, who discovered them.
The Duchenne smile is a genuine, heart-warming smile where one, particularly the giver, experiences true pleasure.
The latter is the fake smile we give to people we secretly dislike.
How do we distinguish between the two?
With the Duchenne smile, two important facial muscles come into play: the zygomatic major, which resides in the cheek, tugs the lips upward; and the orbicularis oculi, which encircles the eye socket, squeezes the outside corners of the eye into the shape of a crow’s foot. When that happens, you know you have a smile that’s good for you!
In a study carried out using pictures of baseball players from 1952, players with Duchenne smiles were only half as likely to die in any year, compared to those who didn’t smile or who had fake smiles.
In another study, researchers observed hundreds of photos from a university yearbook and recorded whether the students smiled or not. Where they smiled, they also recorded whether it was genuine or fake; and the intensity of the smile.
The less intensely the students smiled, the more likely they were to get divorced at some point in their lives.
Even smiling during tough times has been shown to have a positive effect on our bodies. Keltner and George Bonanno measured the facial expressions of people who discuss a recently deceased spouse. They found lower levels of distress in those who displayed genuine, Duchenne laughter during the discussion, compared to those who did not.
If you want to improve the quality, even the number, of your days, try smiling more.
Give yourself an extra boost with this exercise devised by positive psychologist, Christopher Peterson.
Over the next two to four weeks, monitor how your days are going by rating each one on a scale of one to ten. One being: ‘it was one of the worst days of my life;’ and ten being: ‘it was one of the best days of my life.’
At the end of those weeks, review your record and look for a pattern. Compare the good days to the bad days – what were doing, or not doing? In every case, you will notice a pattern.
Maybe on your good days, you were productive at work, or played with your children; whereas on your bad days, you became preoccupied with one negative event. Whatever the case, once you find the secret behind what constitutes a great day for you, adopt more of the same into your future days.
Now have a great day!