One of my good friends on campus was having lunch with me today and said something interesting.
While I was shoveling a forkful of salad into my mouth, she started laughing for no reason. Confused, I asked her what was so funny. She told me that she was just really happy. I didn't understand, so I asked again. She explained, saying that she had woken up with a big smile on her face, and since then, all day she'd been in a good mood.
For me, someone who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed fifty percent of the time - whether that be to an annoying alarm, or to voices talking, or simply to my own inner alarm clock warning of a stressful day ahead - this was a kind of wild concept to me.
I asked her what had made her smile when she woke up, and she just shrugged. Mind you - she has just as many reasons to wake up a grouch like me. We both have that dreaded eight AM calculous class three days a week, along with other not-so-fun responsibilities.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty situation. We all have reasons to smile, and we all have reasons to frown. At the end of the day, though, it's in our own power to choose how to feel. Every day, we have the power to decide - whether we realize it or not - either to be optimistic or to focus on the less glamorous aspects of our life. But when we focus mostly on those more painful parts, we inadvertently choose to be stressed, overwhelmed, or upset.
Bizarre, right? Sometimes it does feel out of our power. When it feels like the sky is falling, and everything is going wrong, it's hard to choose happiness. But it's always an option.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder what I've been doing. I mean, why would I actively choose to be unhappy or stressed, when I could be happy? Why would I choose to focus more on the bad than the good? Don't we all want to be happy? I know I do. I want to be happy. And it's always within my reach.
Of course, these things are always easier said than done. I think it's a really radical concept - choosing to shift your whole mentality. Choosing optimism. It's probably one of those "fake it till you make it" things. I think at first, it may feel a little forced, a little impossible. But all great things take time. Baby steps. That's what you have to remember.
I read once that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. I'm going to try smiling more, and maybe, just maybe, those extra muscles I'm not using will tell my brain to smile too.