Tips for Increasing Cheerfulness

Tips for Increasing Cheerfulness

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Martha Washington, wife of the nation's first President, was determined to be cheerful and happy whatever situation she was in. She believed that cheerfulness to a large extent depended on the disposition of a person and not on his or her circumstances.

"Determination" and "belief" are the two major operatives here. You must be "determined" to be cheerful and you must "believe" that your cheerfulness or happiness largely depends on you and not on your circumstances.

Some view cheerfulness as a personality trait or part of one's temperament. It might be more meaningful to view cheerfulness as an acquired trait, a habit of the mind.

When you keep on repeating a physical action it becomes a behavioral habit such as the smoking habit. When you keep repeating such mental actions as thinking a particular thought or believing a particular belief, it becomes a mental habit like cheerfulness or hopelessness.

Though our thoughts, perceptions and interpretations are mental actions, they do manifest themselves in our physical actions and outward expressions. Your cheerfulness would reflect in such external things as your speech and facial expressions. So if you are a person of cheerful disposition, others would notice it right away.

The word "cheer" is derived from the root word, "chere" which literally means the face. Perhaps, people in olden days began to equate joy, mirth and friendship with a brightened smiley face. After all, cheerfulness does show in the facial expression, the look and the demeanor of the person.

Cheerfulness is like having spring season all year long. The joy, mirth, laughter and other momentary expressions of cheerfulness are like weather events of that all-year long spring season.

Cheerfulness has a social value. A cheerful face is one of the best forms of greeting-makes the other person feel welcome and appreciated. It makes them feel good about themselves and is rewarding to the person who initiates the greeting. Mark Twain once said that the best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up. And, it all begins with a smiley face.

Someone said cheerfulness is infectious. Don't avoid catching it from someone else. Even better, become a "carrier" of it and infect someone else.

Once fully developed, the cheerful temperament can stay with you forever. In fact, if the emotional development has progressed satisfactorily through the various phases of the life cycle, cheerfulness should increase and not decrease during the senior years. Only the people who have been cynical and negative throughout their life tend to become grumpier.

Cheerfulness in old age is a sign of a successful and happy life. It shows that the old person has it all under control. Someone said there is nothing more beautiful than cheerfulness in an old face.

So, if cheerfulness is a habit of mind, what might be the mental actions? What should be repeated over and again to form such a habit? One such mental action is to think cheerful thoughts. But first, learn to identify your thoughts. Thoughts are part of your internal speech. It is the talk you do with yourself inside your head.

In order to develop or strengthen the cheerful habit, your self-talk should be positive rather than negative, optimistic rather than pessimistic, affirmative rather than denigrating, and approving rather than dismissive or condemning.

We say something in our head about every single thing we experience in a day's span. For example, as you read this article, you may be talking to yourself about it cheerfully or cheerlessly. The talk of a cheerless person may consist of saying something like, "Sure! Dr. Sharma, like you can be cheerful all the time. How can you be cheerful when your child cries all night, your spouse won't take any responsibility around the house and you have a boss who is determined to make your life miserable?"

To continue with the example, the talk of a cheerful person may consist of something like this, "This is very interesting. This confirms what I had believed and practiced all along. No matter what the circumstances, keep your spirits up and keep plugging. You still cut up and try to be pleasant around others. It doesn't cost anything to smile and be nice to others."

"Whatever is, is" is the motto of the cheerful people. They accept unfavorable circumstances and put the best face on them. Cheerless people tend to feel angry, frustrated and punished by those circumstances. So, more of the similar circumstances follow them.

Just like most people try to develop physical immunity to viruses and germs. We should also make an effort to develop the emotional immunity to such events as the frustrations, disappointments and setbacks. So, develop your emotional immunity.

Cultivate an optimistic outlook. Constantly recharge yourself with everyday sensual pleasures, like the laughter and smiles of children walking by, strolling around the garden and open yourself to the sensual delights, taking a pleasant walk, talking with people or simply enjoying stretching and exercising.

Mind can enhance the enjoyment of things or it can kill it altogether. For example, two people see the same sunset, a rainbow in the sky or a rose on the bush, one might be filled with joy and gratefulness, the other person may be too wrapped up in his or her conflicts and tensions to be moved by such phenomena.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, "Keep the tree of your heart green and perhaps the singing bird will come."

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Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 


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