A lot has happened in the past month. Many celebrations and time honored traditions have been kept. From Passover, through Easter and Ramadan, to Israel Independence Day and United Jerusalem Day. Americans of all religions should be grateful that we have religious freedom in our great nation and can celebrate many joyous occasions.This has been a fun, meaningful time of renewal, revitalization and freedom, and spirituality is all around us. We have been able to see the bright side of life, when more and more people are going out and trying to stay happy and positive during these hopefully soon post-pandemic times. So let us look at what HAPPINESS is about.
Let’s begin with a quote from The American Heart Association. “Laughter and JOY and Kindness are the HERBS to Gladden the Heart and Delight the Soul.” During the year we recognize World Smile Day. This day is dedicated to good works and good cheer. The theme is: “Do an Act of Kindness. Help one person smile.” The symbol for the day is the “smiley face” icon which was created by Harvey Ball of Worcester, MA, in 1963.
Isn’t it also interesting to remember that a frown is simply an upside down smile? In fact, the thought alone makes you smile, doesn’t it? Don’t you just love a great big belly laugh, the kind where you laugh so hard that your sides ache. We all do. In fact, there is nothing so contagious as a good laugh. Just watch how much it spreads with a group of children. They have playful spirits that are drawn to the funny, and they are not afraid to let their giggles be heard.
In reality, laughter really is important for all of us no matter our age—it’s good medicine. Research studies show that laughing stimulates breathing and circulation, boosts the immune system and helps reduce pain. Our sages too are full of advice and quotes, about how laughter lifts the spirit and improves our mood. So let’s make a conscious effort t keep a smile on our face and allow ourselves to laugh freely and frequently.
Moreover, a fascinating article entitled “SMILE! It could make you happier” appeared in Scientific American Magazine. Making an emotional face or suppressing one influences your feelings. The article mentions that “In 1872, Charles Darwin, the famous evolutionist, first proposed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings. Additionally, the esteemed 19th century psychologist William James; went so far as to assert that “if a person does not express an emotion, he has not felt it at all.” The article concludes that our faces do seem to communicate our state of mind not only to others, but to ourselves.
Let’s look at the field of art history. There are plenty of paintings of people with smiles that are analyzed and enjoyed by viewers and lovers of art. Perhaps one of the most famous smiles ever painted and studied is of the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo DaVinci. Who doesn’t note her mysterious, captivating smile?
One of my favorite books is called Smiling Wisdom: Pearls of Jewish/Israeli Wisdom & Humor by Ephraim Rudensky, filled with notes and quotes, sayings and stories. In the book, he quotes Max Nordau, philosopher and renowned leader as saying, “Those who have laughed together and cried together are no longer strangers.” A very true statement. In the Book of Genesis, we learn about our biblical matriarch, Sarah, who was childless, then an angel appeared to her, and told her she would have a child born in her old age, in her 90’s.. and what did she do? Sarah laughed. Yes, and what was the name of the son, born to Sarah and Abraham? He was called Isaac, his name meaning what? Yes…laughter.
Laughter is holy. It opens our hearts. It allows love and friendship to fill us. There is a Yiddish proverb, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” May we all be blessed with health, prosperity and peace, and may we all be blessed with many smiling faces, laughter and happy news.