A small child smiles nearly 400 times a day. That’s a lot of grinning, right? The smiles taper off as they grow, and by the time they reach adulthood, they’re smiling a mere 17 times per day. I read that quick fact in The Happiness Project, and I’ve been pondering ways to recover some of the 383 smiles; where did they go, and how do we get them back? So, this might seem tangental, but I got to thinking about how much time I spend repeating, over and over, “milk, shampoo, bread, butter.” A little thing, sure, but it requires a lot of mental repetition to make sure I don’t forget any of the items. And what a silly thing to focus on, right? I decided to design ‘market stationary’ that reminded me not only of bread & butter, but also (cheesy as it is) ‘love each other.’ The additional bit about loving one another seems more worthy of headspace than market knick knacks. While I was preparing this post, I came across some other interesting facts about smiling:
UC Berkeley found that yearbook smiles are reliable predicators of future happiness, marriage stability and interpersonal success.
Wayne State University found that baseball card smiles predict the span of a player’s life.
We are born smiling.
Now, tell me, do you have any strategies for making yourself or others smile?
They say time changes things, but that’s not true – it’s people that make the changes. Change happens one person at a time, step by step and choice by choice. External change is inevitable, and even if we don’t make a conscious effort to change, we still change irregardless in relation to our evolving environment. My random act of happiness today was focused on change, and, more exactly, positive change. Change is inevitable, but my hope is that people intervene in their own lives to make positive change not only possible, but probable.
I made smiley faces with a .75” diameter, printed them on sticker paper, and then attached them to the back of pennies. With a pile of ‘positive change’ in my hands, I went about the business of leaving happy pennies around the neighborhood. Personal change starts with yourself, and you alone are responsible for the things that happen to you. If you don’t like where you are, consider changing directions. Forging a new path might be difficult, but it’s ultimately much easier than remaining in an undesirable situation. If you want to make your own positive change, you can print out template here:positivechange
i like good books and the people that read them. i enjoy the lyrical quality of words playing together, and when i find someone that enjoys books as much as i do, i know i’ve found a friend. today my random act of happiness went a little, well, not-so-random in an effort to make my fellow readers smile.
i made simple bookmarks out of construction paper, crayons and pins, and then i hid them in novels throughout my favorite minneapolis bookshop.
happiness is on my mind with the interactions taking place in the rah rah rah series (random acts of happiness). today i took a second to write down my 13 happiest moments in 2013, and they ordered something like this:
my wedding day
a friend telling me she’s in love
another friend telling me she’s in love
a friend telling me she’s pregnant
another friend telling me she’s pregnant
my sister winning a house lottery (!)
moving to minneapolis
a friend getting a job offer that she’s been wanting for a while
a friend dropping everything and traveling solo to south america because it’s been on her bucket list for soo long
jon’s parents giddy excitement as they planned their trip to the baltic sea
jon’s parents excitement when they announced their retirement
my brother-in-law’s college graduation
my bachelorette party in austin
my honeymoon trip to isla mujeres
visiting good friends in new york city
the list suggests that some of my happiness comes from personal milestones, but a great deal of it comes from celebrating the achievements of friends and family. does it follow that we can be happier simply by celebrating the good fortune of others? the answer seems to make sense– if the people around us are flourishing and happy, then their joy is capable of increasing our own. per usual, i grabbed my camera and headed to the streets of minneapolis to test my theory. i approached strangers and asked them to talk about the last time they were happy for someone else: the first man i approached was more enlightened than the buddha himself. he looked at me like i was nuts, and he told me that he’s always happy for others. always? always. he said that he’s happy because he has 4 grandchildren — ages 8, 9, 15, and 17 — and all of them are healthy and loved. he said that being around his grandchildren is enough to make him happy for all of his days. i scribbled down his words, and then he gazed up at the sun and reflected for a bit. after, he told me that he’s also very happy that the people of minneapolis have such wonderful lakes and sunny skies.
while the rest of the responses weren’t exactly going to make the buddha smile, they did provide further insights into what’s making the people of minneapolis happy:
“i’m happy it’s my sister’s birthday, and that we’re together at the lake instead of working.” (girl in blue)
“it’s my birthday!!!” (girl in yellow)
“i am sophie, and i am happy because my sister just got pregnant. she was trying for a couple years, and it was really tough for her, and then she called from work –even though she wasn’t supposed to be on the phone– and she told me the good news.”
“i’m happy that my son came home from maryland to visit for a while. he hasn’t been home since 2009, and now i have him here for 2 weeks.” (woman in hat)
“i’m happy my mom’s happy” (man in hat)
“my sister had a job interview today at the school where our mom works — it would be great if they could work together.”
“friend of mine just got married – they’re an adorable couple and incredibly happy together.” (guy in sleeveless)
“my sister got engaged” (girl in dress)
“a friend of mine has a coffee-date with a coworker” (guy in polo)
“a friend got married – or, well, a few did – it’s wedding season!”
“a friend of ours just had a baby–and so did we!”
“my brother, joe fessler, just dropped a new album. he was working on the mix for over a year, and it turned out awesome.”
“my dad just started his own company”
“my daughter just had a perfect baby.”
“our son is engaged to the most wonderful woman.”
i set out to make others happy, but i was definitely the lucky one today — it was so. much. fun. listening to all the happy moments that people shared with me. i loved hearing the enthusiasm and love with which people spoke about their friends and family (and yes, they were all smiling while they talked — mission accomplished).
street artist banksy claims “the only thing worth looking at in most museums of art is all the schoolgirls on daytrips with the art departments.” i’ve always found museums to be hotbeds of creativity, and so i would beg to differ. i mastered in art history, and i’ve always felt at home among baroque sculptures, renaissance paintings, and contemporary ideas. today i decided to infuse the minneapolis institute of art with a bit of cheer by passing out smile-inducing pins. i walked up to strangers, and i asked them to pick the pins that best fit their personality. the experiment was a ton of fun, and the most important takeaway was that twinkle toes loves silly bones<3
random acts of kindness are fine — compliments and cookies and whatnot — but i’ve always thought that random acts of happiness would be much, much better. instead of trying to be kind, why not try to spread cheer? it’s easy enough to help someone carry their groceries or cross the street, but what would it take to make someone measurably happier? it’s a tall order, and i’m not entirely sure i’ve got the answer, but i’m up for the challenge. i began today by having some silly poems that i wrote screen-printed onto balloons to disperse around the city. the poems for the balloons are as follows:
“i talk to strangers
hoping to meet
someone like you”
“a day without you
is like a morning
made me forget
my parking ticket”
when jon got home from work, i enlisted his help finding locations for the balloons that would make people smile.
we decided on the following:
i also found a few things in the neighborhood that made me smile:
we ended the night at lake calhoun where i began thinking of my next RAH (random act of kindness):