Happiness is Catching

I inherited this plaque from my grandmother.  It used to hang in her kitchen, and now it hangs in mine.

It has a memorable little slogan, one that you can probably read better if I zoom in:

And below that it says:

I adore this plaque because it reminds me of my grandmother and her bright, sunny kitchen, of all the pot roast dinners she cooked there and all the times that my sister and I, in our stocking feet, “skated” across the linoleum. Good memories, all.

But just the other day I started to really think about the sentiment it offers.  Is it true?  Do we “catch” happiness from one another?

I’m inclined to think yes.  And since I’m an English teacher who can outline the five-paragraph essay format in her sleep, here are three supporting points to back up my claim:

1) At school, there is a colleague of mine who is a genuinely positive, upbeat person.  Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know her better than I did before because our rooms are now near one another.  And I’ve realized that being with her actually does make me feel better.  Her cheerful energy rubs off  on me, even if I’m having a frustrating day in which I got a late start to school and the technology in my classroom isn’t working right.  She makes me happier than I was before.

2) My boys.  The other day, they were both watching “Dinosaur Train,” an animated show in which a family of pteranodons (yes, I did have to check the spelling of that)  take a train to go visit different dinosaur species.  (Scott maintains that the show is a cagey ploy to capitalize on the two things toddlers love most, dinos and choo-choos.)  At any rate, there was something on that particular episode that tickled the funny bone of both boys at once, and they burst into laughter, the kind that bubbles up from someplace deep down and just doesn’t stop.  I had to come out of the kitchen to see what was so funny, and their laughter and their adorably happy faces were priceless.   I went back to fixing dinner with a smile on my face.

3) Anderson Cooper.  He got the giggles the other day while reporting on a  story, and when I saw the video, I cracked up, too.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out … his laughter is infectious.

So I think there’s some wisdom in that little plaque.  And it challenges me to be not just on the receiving end of the happiness, but also to be the one who generates it and passes it on.  There are plenty of days when I’m really pretty happy underneath it all, but I let the minor frustrations — the messy living room, the traffic, the weather — show on my face instead.   When Scott comes home, am I greeting him with the cheerfulness of what was overall a pretty good day, or with the tight face of a mom who is thinking ahead about the laundry she still has to do?   Why should the awareness of a boring task ahead trump the fact that I am, really, pretty content overall?  I don’t know.

But I do know that I’d like to be better about consciously recognizing my own happiness, and passing it on to others.

And I’ve got a colorful reminder right on the wall.

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