Family & Education

Dear Next Generation: The Life-Changing Power of Smiling

BY Dear Next Generation TIMEApril 3, 2022 PRINT

My most memorable lessons didn’t come as remarkable revelations, like a thwack upside the head to get my attention. No aha moment. No lightbulb.

It was quiet, like a whisper that my spirit was ready to hear.

While waiting for a friend to join me in a restaurant, I noticed writing on a sugar packet on the table, mixed in with all the others. “Smile, it will free you from the tyranny of wasted thoughts” was neatly printed on it. I did smile at the message at the time, and then set it aside. But it didn’t set me aside. It was like a song in my head that kept repeating. Have you ever brushed away a cobweb but found it clinging to your hand regardless of how you keep trying to shake it off? That phrase clung to me.

I’m by nature a happy person. I always thought I had been blessed with extra endorphins or a double dose of serotonin, or something not of my own doing, just very thankful for it. At that particular time, however, I was brought low by very unfortunate life events. That sugar advice made me ponder how much the words I say to myself contribute to my outlook and how a smile changed the way I thought in that moment. Awareness is such a potent thing. So it caused me to smile more, which often made folks around me smile back. Depressed, defeated thoughts are a tyranny, but a tyranny I can overcome. That revelation started a mini internal revolution.

Later, my smile hypothesis was confirmed when I read about actual research studies on how contrived facial expression and posture contribute to improved mental attitude. That confirmation put a little more steel in my backbone. That, along with my functioning wishbone and funny bone contributed greatly to diminishing wasted thoughts.

Around the same time, I read words often attributed to Gandhi, though I found out much later they weren’t his: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” “Be” implies much more than a simple mindset or way of thinking. You rarely can be one way and do another. I know who I am by what I do (for the Bible tells me so) and I can control what I do. Control, or even just a feeling of control, is the lever that lifts the spirit. It is the antithesis of impotence, victimhood, worthlessness.

These two phrases made me not just feel, but actually know that I had a great deal of control. I feel “being the change” is now my superpower, and the exercise of smiling actually strengthens my resolve in a profound way. And yes, I also leave sugar messages whenever I can.

Kathleen Studer, California

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What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

Send your advice, along with your full name, state, and contact information to NextGeneration@epochtimes.com or mail it to: Next Generation, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001.

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