Is it time for an attitude adjustment?
No, I don’t mean happy hour at your local pub, although that’s not a bad idea.
Medical science, however, has been saying a lot lately about attitude and its effect on health and aging. For one thing, researchers have found that happy people seem to live longer. Not simple-minded Pollyanna people, mind you, but people who smile a lot. Just the simple act of smiling seems to release chemicals that improve our sense of well-being. I can see that. If you’re smiling at something, you’re already feeling pretty good. But the wild thing about the research is that just smiling – crinkling your eyes, turning up the corners of your mouth – also has much the same effect, whether you actually have something to smile about or not. Given the choice, I’d prefer to have something real to make me smile than smiling like an idiot just because it’s supposed to be good for me. But hey, I’m smiling right now. How about you?
And that overall attitude thing: Researchers say that people who identify themselves as conservative rate their sense of well-being higher than those who say they’re liberals. No, it’s not because it’s easier to be happy when you’re among the 1 percent. The reason, the researchers said, is that conservatives, no matter how well off, feel better about the future because they believe people can improve themselves. The American Dream. Liberals were less happy about the future because they see more people having problems, they can’t always help, and they sometimes feel overwhelmed. Who knew that empathy could be a problem for your health?
The lesson for me in all this? Smile all you can, I guess. Especially while you’re trying to help people make their own better future. Should be something in that for everybody.