Commentary: Smile and live longer
Would you like to live longer? There might be a simple way to make it happen. But first, a little background. A 2011 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that unhappy older people died at nearly twice the rate in the next five years than happy people. So, what is a simple test of happiness? Sarah Pressman, associate professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California has been researching happiness for about 10 years. She has developed an experimental test. You might call it a "fake it until you make it" test. Her experiment has found that people who smile while receiving a needle injection in the doctor’s office are indicating a basic happiness that makes the needle 40 percent less painful.
Is that all there is to it -- if you can smile while you’re getting a vaccination, you’re happy and you will live longer? If that is true, it opens the door for all sorts of bizarre possibilities -- an olympics of happiness during pain.
We must recognize that a good doctor is not going to be giving you shots one after another. Some shots last a year, some last five years, and some are good for a lifetime. That’s not many opportunities to smile. And don’t even think about a heavy bout of acupuncture.
Becoming a human pincushion will make you happy at about the same rate as a wrestling match with a porcupine.
Other painful events in life must be twisted into happiness. For example, our car has a spare tire I’m sure, but you will need a detective or a pit crew to find it. The owner’s manual is 558 pages long. The index alone is 11 pages. It has a chapter on tires that is 29 pages long and nowhere in that chapter is any mention of a spare tire. I’m not making this up. But there is an Emergency chapter that is 23 pages long. That section tells me we have a "temporary spare tire," that is dangerous to use. But it doesn’t tell me where it is. Then, with more research in the manual, in the Interior Equipment Storage Compartment chapter there is reference to a secret compartment under the storage area called the under-floor storage compartment with nine tools stored over the trap door. Then I am referred to another chapter describing the under-floor storage compartment which I am told is a good place to store a FLAT tire. Nowhere in the entire 558 pages of the book does it specifically tell me where the temporary spare tire is hiding and there is no diagram with even a hint. I’m sitting here searching the manual while I’m writing this, and I know how to do research if I may say so. Now, imagine you are driving down the highway in North Dakota or Minnesota in March. I don’t have to make it after dark to make my point. Suddenly -- FLAT TIRE. The lights on your control panel are flashing. Pull over to the shoulder of the road and -- smile -- you’ll live longer.
But you can get only so many needle shots or flat tires. You need more, much more to fortify your happiness on a regular basis in order to endure pain to strengthen your drive for a longer life. Here are five more quick fixes:
Listen to Donald Trump brag once again that Mexico is going to pay for the huge wall he will build, and -- SMILE.
If you are a man of a certain age, give yourself a shampoo, then look at the floor of your shower, watch your hair go down the drain, and -- SMILE.
Stub your big toe in the dark, and -- SMILE. If you repeat this exercise daily on the same toe, you will only increase the benefits.
Listen carefully to see whether you can understand the words of a rapper who claims to be a poet and artist, and -- SMILE.
Get rear ended by a driver who was texting, and -- SMILE.
If you can do all this, you are indeed a happy person, and you will be rewarded with five bonus years and a happy life.