Smile Blog Revisited

Coping With Lockdown

The Western Algarve Coast

This blog is more for me than for you. I recently learned that the Portuguese government will extend lockdown until early April. On top of that, my vaccine is months away and the two jabs could get in the way of travel. It’s been a difficult year, however, I have come to realize that there are several things that I now do and can do, to make lockdown more tolerable. I made a list which I believe is best left in my journal.

When you put it all down on paper, it’s a full life. Last year I read interviews that were done with elderly people close to the end of their lives: when asked, “Is there anything you would have done differently?”, they overwhelmingly responded that they would have worked less and spent more time doing the things they enjoyed. For the most part, I’m doing the things I enjoy, in and out of lockdown. Excellent life lesson, especially for someone who believes that we get one shot at making it count.

I should add that I am acutely aware of those all over the world who are far less fortunate; gratitude helps keep things in perspective. I must admit this all seems a bit trite considering the current condition of humanity.

Spring has arrived here in the Algarve; it’s warmer, greener, and hope is in the air. That makes me smile.

“ALWAYS WEAR A SMILE BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING.”

Gracie Gold

I want to smile more. I do. One would think that this would be an easy goal, but trust me, if you’re not inclined to smile, deciding to do so, just like that, is a difficult objective. I was born cynical, but coming up in my world, how could I not be. I also believe this is one of those nature/nurture arguments. Was I cynical because of my genetic makeup or did growing up in a tortured household make me cynical. For the purpose of this piece, let’s call it a draw and say that both factors are the cause. The point is, I have to work at smiling and how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

“Love yourself for who you are, and trust me, if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person, and your smile is your best asset.”

Ileana D’Cruz

Some Ways/Places to Practice Smiling

  • Tell yourself to smile every morning. You can do it when you’re brushing your teeth. It won’t take any more time out of your busy day. Soon it will be as routine as brushing; you won’t even think about it.
  • Add a little caveat to practicing your smile:  make it so that you cannot smile unless you add something you’re grateful for. For example:  this morning, before I brushed my teeth, I thought about how grateful I was that I slept well and then I smiled.
  • Practice while you’re doing something mundane — like when you’re on the treadmill at the gym or while you’re riding in a bus or on the subway.
  •  Look straight into a mirror and keep smiling.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Let them tell you what they think of your smile and accept the feedback. Is it genuine? Too broad? Too big?

Be Your Own Motivator

I have a friend whom I met at a gym in Portland, Maine. He was struggling on an abdominal machine near where I was working out. He saw me watching him and asked me if I knew how to use the machine. I hopped on and did a few reps (gym lingo for repetitions just to show you how cool I can be). Chomba is from Zambia, he studied in Europe, he’s in his 20s and he’s quite a specimen; naturally I was pleased to show him how to use the machine correctly. Like any normal man, I preened and walked away triumphant. A few days later I saw him using the same machine and he was smiling ear-to-ear. Honestly, Chomba has the most genuine and beautiful smile I have ever seen. I noticed him using the very same machine on a regular basis. I finally approached him and asked him if he used any other equipment at the gym. He shared a big laugh and thanked me for showing him how to use the machine. I said, “Chomba, because I always see you on this ab machine, I am naming it the Chomba Machine.” From then on I when I would see him I would ask if he had done his ab reps on the Chomba machine that day.

Weeks went by of just saying hello in the gym and I thought it was time to become friends outside of Planet Fitness. I approached him and invited him over to my place for dinner. I was having a dinner party and I thought he’d be a great addition to my guest list. Chomba was delighted and came to my place with a nice bottle of wine. Everyone at party fell in love with him. He’s the kind of person who lights up the room and makes everyone feel special. That night I learned that he was a motivator working out of Boston. His firm was hired by companies to motivate their staff (Chomba if I’m getting this all wrong I apologize). What I loved more than anything is that he did not boast about his work or his life. We had to poke and pry before he came clean. Chomba is a modest fella. By the way, Chomba models now (lives in Portland, OR — fairly new) and always stays in touch. I’m grateful for his candor, his loyalty and his beautiful smile.

What Chomba has taught me is invaluable. Essentially, you can be your own motivator. You can do what he does, but in your own head. You can get yourself charged-up and energized whenever you feel yourself needing a little boost.

Experiment

Having been a sociology student in college, I often love to go back to my roots and do human interaction (behavior) experiments. I occasionally spend the day smiling all day just to see how people respond to it. I also enjoy seeing if it affects my mood.

I have to say that I get pretty amazing results:

  • People almost always smile back.
  • It sometimes feels like you’re waking someone up and suddenly they seem to come alive.
  • It makes me feel lighter.
  • The results make me want to do it more often.
  • Sometimes it makes strangers laugh; especially when I smile really big. I’m thinking, they must think I’m crazy, but who cares.
  • There is a reason for the saying “A smile goes a long way.”
  • I am in the middle of a very frustrating experience with an upgrade to my apartment. The person responsible for getting the work done has been slacking off and it’s sort of driving me crazy. The project began 14 months ago. I decided to give him an ultimatum knowing that he might walk away from the job. Instead, when I saw him I smiled. It appears that is not what he expected and I believe he may be close to finishing the job. Yesterday, I received a call from a man who will hopefully complete the job this week.

Current Mood

One of the interesting things about blogging is how your mood and thoughts change as you work through a particular thread of thoughts. I woke today in a non-smiling mood. You may relate to what I’m feeling, except that I don’t quite know what I am feeling. What I do know, is that I don’t feel like smiling. I had an interaction yesterday that was troubling and it’s still on my mind. I’m pissed to put it bluntly.

I am going to work through these feelings and thoughts by forcing a smile and see where it takes me.

The next day:  the left home for a bed & breakfast about 90 minutes away. Sometimes it helps to be away from your familiar environment. I found myself smiling just as soon as I boarded the train.

Smiling is one of those things you can do to brighten your day and/or someone else’s day, and it cost nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero cents! In fact, studies have shown that it’s good for you too.

Image result for is smiling good for your health
Why Smile?

http://www.waynedentalarts.com The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. … The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.Jun 25, 2012

There’s Magic in Your Smile | Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge…/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

There’s Magic in Your Smile

Surprising Health Benefits of Smiling

Two things that help me smile: Giving when I can and volunteering my time. Never underestimate the power of compassion and charity.

Question of the week:

What makes you smile?

Not Everyone Has a Guilty Conscience

And Why Does That Bother Me So Much?

Which one is you?

I once wondered how some people slept at night. I would consider a monster like David Dukes for example, preaching white supremacy and inciting violence and death. It was difficult to imagine someone like him enjoying a good night’s sleep. I wanted to imagine him tortured and tormented by his own thoughts and guilty conscience. Unfortunately, he likely sleeps better than most of us.

A person that does not feel guilt or remorse would have no reason to find themselves at fault for something that they did with the intention of hurting another person. To a person high in psychopathy, their actions can always be rationalized to be the fault of another person.
Guilt (emotion) – Wikipedia

Thinking Of Others (Empathy)

Not sure, why but as I get older I seem to be paying more attention to the notion of empathy. I’m assuming I was more self-centered when I was younger and I’m pretty sure that’s normal. There do seem to be people who think of others a great deal. I’m sure it’s a combination of genetics, parenting and the environment. There has been a good deal of public discourse about this lately because of the Pandemic and U.S. leadership. I don’t believe people as a whole are any more or less empathetic than they once were.

A couple of questions to consider:

  1. Are we born empathetic?
  2. Does our compassion for one another change over time?
  3. Can a person begin to feel guilt over time?
  4. If a person does not feel guilt, what does he or she feel in place of guilt?
  5. Can you push guilt down so far that you cannot detect it at all?
  6. How are family members affected by the lack of a guilty conscience in one of their own?
  7. How can we function knowing these people live among us?
  8. How do we repair the damage done by someone who only thinks of themselves?

Thinking of Oneself

We all know people who never think of anyone else save themselves. Call them selfish, narcissistic, self-absorbed, vain, or whatever label you want to put on them; labels these people often deserve.

Portugal’s social democracy is a reminder to me that the desire to care for those who cannot care for themselves or do not have the same advantages, is a very noble way to live. The middle class is much larger in Portugal than it is in non-social democracies. It’s not that wealthy people do not exist, it is just a fact that there are fewer extremes: wealth and poverty. Does that mean that Portuguese people care more about other than Americans do? I don’t believe that is necessarily true. The country went from a dictatorship to social democracy. People in Portugal and other dictatorships (i.e., Spain and Germany) were ready to embrace the idea of more equity and services/programs provided by the government.

I don’t want to get into a debate about what is better for society. What I do know is there are fewer homeless, everyone has access to healthcare, no one has to go hungry, groceries are more affordable and therefore, people have easier access fresher and healthier foods.

I like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but I assumed neither would be the democratic candidate because the U.S. is nowhere near ready or open to socialism. Tribalism and an every “man” for himself attitude is pervasive in the States and it is only becoming more the case as each day passes. I don’t have an answer for it, however, I do believe a catastrophic event could change people’s attitudes. The Pandemic does not appear to be that event.

Is it Possible to Change?

I think it’s possible. I believe that someone who never felt guilt or empathy, can start to think and feel beyond their own lives. What I’ve noticed thus far is this: there almost has to be a catastrophic event in a person’s life in order to shake them up to the point of change. For example, a guy who has been selfish and self-serving who meets a wonderful woman who is willing to overlook all of his flaws, falls deathly ill. She has a horrible cancer that kills her slowly and she suffers with pain she cannot hide. This man watches the person who loves him unconditionally, waste away. During this time he can either play the victim and blame God or everyone else, or he might slowly realize that he is losing, or has lost, the one person who would tolerate his flawed character. He might miss her to the point of finally recognizing that the good in her could possibly save him from himself. I know this sounds far fetched and unrealistic; however, I’ve seen a glimpse of hope on a couple of occasions. The question is, would it last for that individual? Sometimes I guess it might.

My Wish

I stopped being Pollyannaish a long time ago. It’s a sure-fire way to set yourself up for disappointment. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be optimistic and realistic. What I want is a slow and steady move toward a better world for all of us — now and in the future; a world where humanity as a whole considers the well-being of all of humanity.

Climate change is a big one for me; I think about the planet and what we are doing to destroy it. Many of us would not be affected by future catastrophic events, but that shouldn’t matter to any of us. What we are passing down to our children and their children, should matter. Those who are in denial who deep down think it will not effect them personally, are the worst among us.

Resources:

Why Do We Feel So Guilty All the Time?

Are There People Who Feel No Remorse?

Why Shame and Guilt are Functional for Mental Health

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