It is a common belief that positive thinking and acting can lead to a happier, healthier life. Some people even believe that small gestures (such as conjoining your upper teeth and lower teeth with a stretch of the cheeks) can make our thoughts change. The thought behind this is that the structure and function of our brains alter, leading us to believe that we are, well, happy. That sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Here's a secret that's not really a secret: It's bullsh*t. Okay, maybe not entirely.... but mostly. Let me explain.
Remember a time in our pubescent blooming years, when our parents used to scold at us when we wouldn't smile? Even when it seemed impossible at adult gatherings where we were told to, “Go play with the kids” who were less than half our age. Adults would tell us to be cheery and encourage us to put on a happy face, even when we didn't want to.
Flash forward to adulthood where we have our very own rather-large but still customized collection of bills and responsibilities that no longer include just making sure the trash doesn't overload or that the dog doesn't have an accident in the house. We are now told to, "Look on the bright side, things could be much worse than they are," or to "Make lemonade when life throws you lemons."
These sayings are the adult version of the “just smile” advice that we were given as children. These sayings and tactics are nice, and can be helpful sometimes, but who the f*ck wants to juice a sour fruit when they're feeling sour themselves?
Though it is nice to think that we can change the way we feel through positive thinking, we can’t just create moments of happiness out of nowhere. We have moments because we are feeling what truly exists around us. Moments of happiness, sadness, love and passion come like wild cards. Moments of joy, pain, heartache, grief, hopelessness, excitement and contentment shuffle in and out through the different stages of each day.
There is more to being happy than just thinking happy thoughts. As we get older and suffer painful life experiences, hope declines, boyfriends/girlfriends can cheat, and friends and family members can disappoint. These painful experiences cannot be turned into happy ones solely by pretending they are.
However, these experiences will shape us into the people we are destined to become and make us stronger and more capable of making good decisions. This will ultimately make us happier, and will reduce the amount of times we just have to pretend to think happy thoughts.