It's August, and that means that it is time for Happiness Happens month, sponsored by the Secret Society of Happy People. Go check them out and join in the fun.
In the spirit of happiness, I decided to think about what makes me smile. Smiling usually is a sign of happiness, right? Well, mostly. If a shark smiles, that's probably not a sign of happiness. Unless the shark is happy that he's found lunch. I am generally very happy when I have lunch in front of me, so why not a shark? How did I get on the topic of sharks? Back to the topic, which is happiness.
Everyone wants to be happy, but a lot of people are confused about what constitutes happiness. Yes, that feeling that you just won the lottery is happiness, but so is the pleasure you feel when you bite into the perfect peanut butter and jelly sammich. Part of being happy is being in the moment, whether you are onstage receiving the gold medal at the Olympics or sitting in your favorite chair. These are some of the things that can make me smile and bring me out of a dark mood.
1. Children laughing. Having become a parent, I will be the first to tell you that children sometimes make you want to pull out all of your hair one strand at a time. However, there's just something about the unfettered, directly-from-the-belly laughter that all kids exhibit that is just plain infectious. When anyone laughs like that, there's no guile involved, no strings, no conditions. That's just what kids do, and it is beautiful to hear. Their joy in the world at that moment is complete, and that always makes me smile.
2. Cat purrs. I love dogs, but cats are my favorite animal. When a cat purrs, it is one of the most relaxing sounds in the world. It seems to reverberate through your bones into that portion of your brain where the command to relax is hidden, and whacks that button with a big cat paw. Purring is a sign of contentment, but it is also a method cats use to self-soothe. I would love to be able to self-soothe without resorting to eating every piece of chocolate in sight. When cat purrs, all is right with the world, it seems. That makes me smile.
3. Music. I have favorite songs that always make me smile, even if some of them are incredibly inane or politically incorrect. Why not songs that make me smile? Elton John's "This Song Has No Title", is a short song and seems to have been thrown onto the album to take up space--and yet it is one of my favorites and I smile every time I hear it. "I'm All Right", otherwise known as the Caddyshack song, is completely silly--and I smile every time I hear it. Sometimes I even dance, but don't tell! Maybe it's that adorable gopher. I couldn't tell you why, but does it really matter?
4. That first taste. When I get up in the morning, I have to have something with caffeine in it, because I am not a crazy person who wakes up all cheerful and perky. No, I am one of those incoherent Cave Trolls until I have my caffeine. That first sip of coffee? The feel of that bittersweet warmth as it hits my tongue and heads down my throat? Heavenly. That makes me smile. But it's not just the first cup of coffee. It's the first bite of a juicy hamburger, or the first drink of the wine you just opened. Eating is pleasurable for me, and I like to savor when I can, because it makes me happy.
5. Reading. Not everyone can read, and not everyone wants to read. I find that very sad, since reading opens up a completely different world to a person. Escaping into a favorite book reduces stress and lets the mind breathe. No other species has the brain capacity to learn to read. Those neural pathways do not exist in other mammals, which means that being able to read is a gift. When I was a kid, I would sit in my room and read for hours. I have stayed up all night reading a good book. I love to read. It makes me smile. And while I am reading, I am happy.
Now it's your turn! What makes you smile?