By Elsebeth Green, LCSW, RPT-S
The brilliant positive psychologist, Martin Seligman starts out his book Authentic Happiness with the fascinating story of a study of 141 seniors graduating from some high school and the types of smiles they displayed in their senior pictures. Apparently, there are two types of smiles and they actually have names. The first is the Duchenne smile, named after the man who noticed it, and this smile is genuine. Not only do the corners of the mouth raise up, but the eyes actually crinkle – something that is very difficult to control. The second smile is named the Pan American smile. This is named after the posed flight attendants in advertising for the now shut-down airlines. This smile looks like it took effort and the eyes do not crinkle.
Of the 141 seniors whose pictures were labeled one of these two categories, about fifty percent were genuine and 50% were not. As these seniors were interviewed at ages 27, 43, and 52 and asked about their marriages and their life satisfaction, guess which group had happier and more satisfied marriages and lives? Was this because they were prettier? Nope! Attractiveness was looked at as a factor and disqualified. It turns out that a woman who genuinely smiles is more likely to be happy in marriage and satisfied with life.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t all have serious challenges in life and in love. I seldom see someone in therapy because they are too happy or too satisfied. But I do notice a correlation between people who grasp onto hope and cheer more quickly and those who make progress even from childhood issues.
Is it possible to make ourselves happier people? Or is the tendency towards happiness something that a few lucky people are just born with? It turns out that, yes, actually there are specific things that have been studied and proven to increase our happiness factor if they are practiced consistently. One such thing is gratitude. It is not just a cliché that if we count our blessings, we will be more cheery. Many studies have confirmed that some type of consistent gratitude practice increases the joy and satisfaction of our lives.
Come and attend the You Got This Women’s Conference 2019 www.yougotthiswomen.com and hear Elsebeth talk about all 10 of the practices that will increase happiness with consistent application.