That frown will just bring everybody down
Last updated 10/19/2022 at 4:22pm | View PDF
"Don't worry, be happy."
You can still hear it, can't you?
"Ooh, ooh, ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh, don't worry
Ooh, ooh, ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh, be happy."
Ah, Bobby McFerrin, so much easier said - or sang - than done.
Which is why authors like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who penned "The Power of Positive Thinking," and Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" have sold millions of copies.
And why magazines like Real Simple publish special editions titled "The Power of Positivity: A Simple Outlook Can Change Your Life."
I happened to have a copy lying around and on a cold, gray, October Monday, its cover of bright orange flowers against a cerulean blue sky called to me.
The magazine is filled with the kind of full-page photos that could make you cringe: yellow smiley faces, multi-colored confetti falling in front of a pink backdrop, an adorable black and white dog running through the grass.
Even I found myself wondering how bad of a mood I must have been in to buy a publication with articles titled "The Science of Smiling" and "10 Reasons for Optimism." How cliché.
So I was surprised to see the first article mention "toxic positivity" - the "good vibes only" messages that fill Facebook and reportedly Instagram.
What we should be doing, rather than trying to be happy all the time, the article states, is working to accept all our emotions without judging them. Author Ginny Graves cited a series of studies by researches at the University of Toronto and the University of California, Berkeley that showed participants who had high levels of acceptance also had higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction and lower symptoms of depression and anxiety.
"In other words, they were more emotionally healthy than those who were less able to accept their circumstances," she wrote.
In between the cheesy photos and corny headlines, I actually found a lot of good advice in the magazine - some of which I had heard before but needed a reminder.
I gleaned the following list of tips to be more upbeat, boost your luck and find some peace.
1. Create a playlist of songs with positive lyrics and a tempo of about 150 beats per minute
2. Schedule a time to stress each day, allowing yourself 10 minutes to worry. Then, when that time comes, write down your worries.
3. Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things for which you're grateful at the end of every day. (I like to do five.)
4. Surround yourself with resilient people.
5. Focus on communicating your successes instead of just talking about things that went wrong.
6. Seek out awe by enjoying a star-studded night sky, a beautiful piece of art or the changing leaves in a forest preserve.
7. Think about how you're going to feel in the future when an experience you're struggling with (like the sleepless nights that come with a new baby) are over.
8. Tell yourself a different story. I've written about this one before. Our thoughts are just that, thoughts - and not necessarily the truth.
9. Install a birdbath or bird feeder outside your window.
We all have a negativity bias, which dates back to the days when paying attention to dangers meant we might avoid being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. Our fight-or-flight response pumps our body with cortisol so we can cope with the danger until it has passed. The problem now is that the dangers we perceive are not life-threatening and our bodies don't reset themselves.
Or, as McFerrin phrases it:
"In every life, we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double."
Sing along with me. "Don't worry. Be happy."
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].