Optimism and Smiling Help You Live Longer
There’s an old adage “ignorance is bliss” that pops up from time to time when I’m teaching or giving a lecture. Especially when the subject is about taking personal accountability for your life. Inevitably someone will mention this old saying and wonder why becoming more spiritually aware in your life means giving up that bliss happy feeling that comes along with attaining enlightenment.
The simple answer is, you’re looking at this from the wrong perspective. Because becoming personally accountable for your actions, thoughts and choices shouldn’t be a burden. It should give you a sense of empowerment over the path your life takes and the direction it’s headed into.
You have the free will and choice to allow every action you take to be overwhelming or a gift of insight and understanding. But that choice is yours to make. Others cannot make you happy, nor can they be held accountable for the choices you make in your life. When you stop blaming others for the things that go wrong in your life; you will discover that you had the power in your hands to create the results you wanted from the beginning. And that spiritual knowledge can and will help you change the direction of your path toward a more positive and optimistic future.
Optimism Is More Than Happy Thoughts
Optimistic people carry with them a sense of goodness but they also hold a perspective that anything is possible. When you feel this way no challenge is too great, no problem is too big that it cannot be dealt with or overcome.
Everyone has feelings of despair once in a while. Being spiritually aware and knowledgeable means more than being accountable for your actions and feeling the burdens that go along with that understanding. It also means you know that you are connected to the Divine force in your life at all times. At any moment of the day or night you can align yourself with that ultimate power of creation and tap into this Divine energy to create the moment, day, week, month, year and life that you need. This understanding of empowerment lifts spiritual optimists out of the shadows or depths of despair, because they know those moments are only temporary.
I recently read an article that described this perspective perfectly:
LAST week, during an intense planning meeting, two of my employees walked in late. I smiled at both of them as they waltzed into the meeting room.
One of them took my smile positively. She interpreted my smile meaning “the boss is so relieved to see me here” and “I am such a critical part of the team.” She believed my smile implied that I truly needed her to get the job done. The other person interpreted the same smile completely differently. He saw the smile as a sarcastic smile indicating my annoyance and anger at his lack of punctuality.
A week later, as I was reviewing both their work from the meeting, you could see a marked difference. One treated the work as joy while the other as a chore, still upset at me for my smile.
Same smile, yet two contrasting reactions. Winston Churchill once defined these two types as “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity whilst an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Reactions to events in your life start with your outlook long before the event occurs. Those that see every situation as a chore will be critical of events they face, challenges they have to overcome and continue to have a pattern of fault or failure. The energy the put forth will draw of the same energy to them.
But those who have an outlook of respect for themselves, confidence in their ability to overcome will always achieve those results no matter how small or how large. Life isn’t a chore, it is an exciting adventure waiting to unfold and be experienced.
The Smartest Man I Know
I recently had a conversation with someone about being smart. The general topic was “how can someone that smart, a college grad be with a guy who barely finished high school. He’s out of her league”.
My first reaction was from personal experience. A college degree or letters behind your name in a signature doesn’t mean you’re smart. It means you’re a college graduate. Knowledge comes from a variety of places and having knowledge alone can be a very dangerous thing. Without the wisdom behind how to use that knowledge, you’re nothing more than a manifestation of words on a page.
But wisdom comes from experience and how you deal with the events in life, good, bad or indifferent. The smartest man I know isn’t even a high school graduate, but he taught himself how to read. He applies what he learns in life to his the new experiences in his life. He lives happily no matter what the circumstance because he has learned if he can overcome one bad experience in life, he can overcome the next. And he has been through some pretty tough events.
When you are faced with challenges in life, it’s not only how you handle them that matters; its how you apply their lessons to the challenge. Knowing that you are not alone in the Universe can only get you so far. Knowing how to use that connection to face hardship and hold an optimistic perspective through even the hardest events in life does.
The perspective you have of yourself and the world around you dictates your view of the events that fall upon your path. A study from a University in Norway determined that optimistic people have more positive experiences in life, even when hardship is in their life. The law of attraction states that a negative spirit attracts negative experiences. So, our attitudes determine the experiences we have, which in turn determines the opportunities we discover and the problems that come our way.
So there’s something behind the wisdom of the old saying “Grin and bear it”.
How A Smile Can Help You Live Longer
Since 2009 several Universities around the world have conducted studies on the effects of smiling, laughter and optimistic attitudes. Each one has concluded that not only do these perspectives empower individuals to overcome hardships and achieve success, they also help people to live longer.
In some of this research it was discovered that children who smile attract more attention. Another study has determine that animals (human and animal alike) are drawn to a positive child much more than to an unsmiling one.
You may have heard that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. While this urban legend is held by many optimists as a lesson for their cause, it’s not something that has been proven or dis-proven. But what has been studied are the effects of smiling on the physical body.
Smiling boosts the immune system. It promotes a sense of well-being and relaxation. Less stress means a stronger physical body.
Smiling lowers your blood pressure. Studies have shown there is a measurable difference in blood pressure when a person smiles.
Research has demonstrated that subjects who produce “negative” facial expressions such as a frown, anger or disgust also produce measurable physical conditions that are created when these expressions coincide with their actual emotions. It’s not only “how you feel”, but “how you look”. Each one of these negative expressions created increased heart rate, elevated skin temperature, sweating and rapid breathing. Simply from making the facial expression.
Smiling affects your overall mood. Here’s the “Grin and Bear it’ test. Studies have shown that when a person feels anxiety, fear or stress they can change their mood and sense of well-being simply by smiling as they work through an issue. As their mood improves so does their cognitive ability to focus on solutions to a problem and overcome their challenges.
Smiling makes you look younger. Sometimes how we feel about our appearance affects how we feel about ourselves. Ever worn a shirt you really didn’t like and after you left the house you wished you hadn’t worn it? You’re left feeling self-conscious all day about your appearance how others perceive you. It’s not only the shirt or the bad hair day that gets you down. It’s the energy you’re putting out to others and how they react to it as well. The best thing you can do to change your appearance is to smile. The sense of self-confidence will have a positive affect on how others see you throughout the day.
Smiling is contagious. Nearly a decade ago, Scientists in Sweden determined why it’s so difficult to keep a straight face if others around you are grinning away. It’s your unconscious mind taking control. Uppsala University invited volunteers to look at pictures of expressionless, happy, and angry faces. In return they were asked to provide the opposite effect of the image. When they had to meet a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile, they had trouble. Electronic equipment measured the slightest muscle reactions during the study. These measurements indicated twitching in the muscles suggesting the subjects didn’t have control of their expressions. Through additional research and study, the University has indicated that there’s a shortcut to the part of the brain that recognizes faces and expressions which bypasses the area responsible for conscious processing. When we see someone smiling, we unconsciously want to smile back. Even if we’re not in the mood.
Consequently we can alter the atmosphere of a gathering by smiling. Lighten the mood, give a sense of uplifting energy and set the tone for a gathering or event.
If you see someone who looks like they’re having a bad day, you can help them out by smiling at them and saying something nice about their appearance. Studies show that when we receive compliments, no matter how insignificant, they can have a huge impact to our attitude and mood. One of the best dis-arming lines for an argument is “My stars you are beautiful when you’re angry”. Not once has that line not changed an angry face into a smiling one.
You are in control of your actions and choices in life. You can choose to face this spiritual insight with dread, trepidation and fear at the prospect of accepting responsibility for the things that happen “to” you. Or you can smile and choose the perspective that the choices you make are all geared toward living with optimism and creating the life you desire.
The choice is up to you. You might as well do it with a smile.
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.