Would You Rather Smile Or Frown?

After the rough weekend (specifically Saturday), it has been tough trying to get back into the swing of things. For the last 4 days, my biggest accomplishments include getting up in the morning, taking a shower, smiling for my daughter, eating my meals and just plain trying to get through each day with hopefully not a lot of wistful sighs and heart-wrenching tears. It is Wednesday now, and I have yet to write on my gratitude journal later. I was finally able to tick lose abs work out earlier and tomorrow I will drink ketones again. Oh, and I resumed adding to my stories in Facebook again.

I remember a book I read about how smiling, and spending time with / talking to people who are in a better mood than us helps make us feel a tad happier. Since going out and meeting people is not advisable just yet, I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled at myself.

When someone dumps their toxic feelings on us – explodes in anger or threats, shows disgust or contempt – they activate in us circuitry for those very same distressing emotions. Their act has potent neurological consequences: emotions are contagious. We “catch” strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.

Every interaction has an emotional subtext. Along with whatever else we are doing, we can make each other feel a little better, or even a lot better, or a little worse – or a lot worse. Beyond what transpires in the moment, we can retain a mood that stays with us long after the direct encounter ends – an emotional afterglow.

These tacit transactions drive what amounts to an emotional economy, the net inner gains and losses we experience with a given person, or in a given conversation, or on any given day. By evening the net balance of feelings we have exchanged largely determines what kind of day – “good” or “bad” – we feel we’ve had.

We participate in this interpersonal economy whenever a social interaction results in a transfer of feeling – which is virtually always. Such interpersonal judo has countless variations, but they all come down to our ability to change another person’s mood, and they ours. When I make you frown, I evoke in you a touch of worry; when you make me smile, I feel happy. In this clandestine exchange, emotions pass from person to person, from outside to inside – hopefully for the best.

A downside of emotional contagion comes when we take on a toxic state simply by being around the wrong person at the wrong time. Like secondhand smoke, the leakage of emotions can make a bystander an innocent casualty of someone else’s toxic state.

Daniel Goleman – Social Intelligence

In a world where families and loved ones separated by the pandemic are forced to make do with video calls and text messages, how do we continue to make a positive impact? I would like to believe I am fundamentally a cheery person, and most of my adult life, I had a happy go lucky, devil may care attitude. I love smiling, making jokes (comes very naturally, even when I am mad!) and laughing!

When I answer a phone call, I smile, hoping that the person on the other end could “hear” me smile. Earlier this year, while taking photos, I told a friend to smile, and she said why bother we are wearing masks. True enough, when we looked at the photos, it was obvious I was smiling and she could not care less. Lol. Even before my daughter could learn how to talk, I encouraged her to smile at everyone, including strangers. It would be nice if she keeps this up since I think it would be creepy if I start doing this now (I was instructed not to talk to strangers when I was young). Or I could still try, right?

After all, I have been told I have a pretty smile. This post is definitely not a phising one. I am no Julia Roberts. I am very much aware I am not beauty queen material (damn, if only I am a bit taller), and in fact I recently found out that I extremely lack self-confidence when it comes to this. Before I would brush off compliments as people probably needing to ask favors (men trying to get into my pants mostly) or something, so it is very liberating to be aware of my insecurities, and deal with it accordingly. I try to take people’s words at face value, and I could feel sincerity sometimes. So maybe I do look a little pretty when I smile, probably because when I do, it sure is genuine, and like someone said, it reaches my eyes.

The pandemic has taken its toll on my cheery disposition, and lately, however, I have not been my usual self. Yes, I could still make jokes and smile and laugh, but not as often as I used to. But if I want to get out of this rut, I have got to start somewhere! Starting tomorrow, I will smile at myself in the mirror once every hour!

Before I could make a positive impact on the people around me, I need to start with myself. This is all the more crucial since I have a 7 year old who absorbs all my energy (both good and bad).

Can you tell I was smiling?

#ToABetterSarah #RaisingSophia #FindingSarah #FromZeroToHero

Photo taken last August 21, 2018 (long before face masks became mainstream, I was rocking it).

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