Everyone has something that never fails to make them smile. Usually a few things; some simple, some specific. A few years ago, I was going through a rough time. Confused, slightly depressed, lonely – my life was a mess and so was I. I didn’t know what to do. And then, quite by accident, I stumbled across something that brightened my whole world. Something that made me completely forget all the things that had me down. At least temporarily. But you know what? Each time I came back to reality, the world didn’t seem quite as gray as it had before. And I realized something: it takes no more effort to be happy than it does to be sad. It’s as simple as making a decision and we only have two choices. One option is to let life get us down, the other is to be happy in spite of the problems and quirks of life. Once the right decision is made, it becomes easy to find things to smile about.
I keep a running list of happy things – my “smile list.” Some items on this list are images, like dogs, the vintage car I dream of owning, the beach, a smiling baby, daffodils, a beautiful gun. Just a look is enough to make me smile when I’ve had a rough day. Then there are the sounds: a revving engine, my dad singing, bacon sizzling, my sister’s laugh, the thunder of the waves, a favorite song. Some are activities, things to do when the stress starts piling up. Cooking, playing on a swing set, driving fast with the windows down and the music loud, swimming. Reading a good book – real, not digital. E-books have no therapeutic benefit. A trip to the shooting range. Wearing a plaid shirt. Eating high-quality chocolate. Wearing cowboy boots. Cuddling in a blanket with a nice cup of tea. Some things on the list are experiences: the wind, lightning, and dark clouds just before a storm; the magic of dawn; the stillness of a forest; the warmth of a hug.
But there are two things that have a bigger influence on my happiness than the whole rest of the list combined. The first is smiling at everyone I meet. It’s not hard, it’s just easier to forget. After a while, though, it becomes habit and I don’t even think about it anymore. I think it was Dolly Parton who said, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” That is a beautiful way to live. The second is doing good for others, helping someone whenever I see an opportunity. That brings a joy that nothing can match. So if you’re feeling down, look for little ways to brighten your day and for ways to make others happy too. For when you give happiness away, it always comes back to you. And don’t forget: it’s the little things that matter most.