Smiling Through the Holiday Rush

Articles and posts abound on the Internet (and Facebook) suggesting that the holiday season poses a challenge to us humans. In a season of joy, folks claim that it is difficult to be happy in overcrowded airports; that it is impossible to stay civil when it comes to spending time with relatives who try our patience. It would seem that there are lots of things to dread.

Others claim that “think positive” advice, and “peppy affirmations” to change one’s mood and visualizations of success can often achieve the opposite of their desired effect. There may be some merit in these claims, but there just might be a piece missing here.

It is a well-researched fact that we move toward what we are thinking about, because human beings think in pictures. If someone tells us NOT to think about a purple elephant, because the words “purple elephant” draw a pretty specific picture, we are going to have a challenge thinking of something else. If we think about how uncomfortable we are going to be in a crowded airport, we don’t stand much of a chance of enjoying the experience.

This is the point where these claims miss a vital point: We have the ability to decide how we are going to react to situations. Typically, we can’t change the situation, but we can change how we react to it. We can choose to be miserable and irritated, and our minds will go right to work at helping us see everything that makes the situation worse. It’s called the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, aided and abetted by our Reticular Activating System.

However, the self-fulfilling prophecy can be pointed in a different direction. We all know that something as simple as a smile can diffuse tension – in yourself and in the receiver of the heartfelt smile you give. It is also contagious!  Just try not smiling back when you are on the receiving end of an honest, heartfelt smile. It’s darn near impossible!

A smile is easy, quick and costs little. And a smile uses fewer muscles and less energy than a frown. So, for today, give the world around you a smile, and see how it transforms the world inside you.