Looking for a reason to smile

November 10th, 2011

In the world today, you don’t have to look too far if you want to become depressed about something. Like @FatChris216 says, a lot of the time we’re just “staring out this window and looking for a reason to smile.”

We all deal with struggles in our daily lives, and sometimes these can seem overwhelming. Negativity can cloud our mind and affect how we respond to the people who are closest to us.

I have experienced first-hand the consequences of this kind of thought. One of the most contagious diseases in this world is a frown. As elementary as it sounds, I have found that pessimism, cynicism and negativity are more dangerous venoms than the deadliest of poisons.

In my own life, I will admit that I have let myself become a victim of these forces. They have a dreadful way of taking over our thoughts and polluting others’ smiles.

That simply isn’t fair to anyone. With the yuletide season just around the corner, I like to think of Buddy the elf, who says proudly, “Smiling is my favorite.” What a simple but fantastic motto to live by.

And as any Star Wars junkie can confirm, the dark side is not actually more powerful, and it always leads to worse outcomes.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to overcome occasional negative feelings on your own, then congratulations. Spread your happiness to the world. But if you can’t seem to shake off your frown, for whatever reason, I may have some helpful thoughts for you.

For a long time, I was looking for an easy solution to this plague of discord that often subtly manifests itself as a smug remark or a few cold words to a close friend. But when I noticed this wasn’t a particularly good way to make and keep friends, I figured it was about time to figure something better out.

After exhausting my own introspective solutions, I decided to rely on an old friend who also did some thinking about this subject – St. Ignatius of Loyola. As JCU students, we should always seek to embody the Jesuit ideals, but I think that we frequently forget about their Ignatian roots.

In order to solve personal attitudinal problems, I think that Ignatius’s “Spiritual Exercises” are tremendously helpful. So, for you Negative Nancys out there, I think the best one to turn to is his Daily Examen.

It was explained to me in five very easy steps:

First, be grateful for every experience, both positive and negative. View all of your positive experiences to be your “free spaces” on the “Bingo board of life;” and think of your negative experiences not as bad things, but as opportunities for you to grow spiritually.

Next, open your mind and your heart to see things from a different point of view. Sometimes, this will require you to become very vulnerable. Although making yourself vulnerable can be a scary idea, it will help you achieve a more accepting view of your world.

The third step is to consider honestly your emotions. If something is weighing heavy on your heart, open yourself up to it. Take a deep breath and center your thoughts. Remember, you aren’t in this alone.

The fourth step follows very naturally – choose an experience from your day and evaluate it. Figure out what went well and give thanks. Then admit what went poorly, and resolve to fix it for the future.

Finally, look towards tomorrow. As Little Orphan Annie always used to say, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re only a day away.” Find your bearings and follow down that path.

Adhering to these values requires gratitude, humility and love. But if you allow these to enter your heart, then you will be cured of your frown forever. Follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius – stop, think, breathe and smile.

After all, the glass might not always be half full, but maybe it is just twice the size it needs to be; and there’s nothing wrong with that.