“Good, how are you?” The phrase that we have been programmed to utter, no matter how we are feeling. It’s more of an acknowledgement of a question than an actual response. Because no matter how sick or tired or deranged we are feeling, we are always going to be “good” when asked how we are; it’s just the way it is. But surprisingly, not all of us are liars out there; some people actually mean it.
We all know who they are. They are the people who walk through the halls smiling away as if it was Friday afternoon, even on Monday mornings. They are the ones who go out of their way to say hello as you sulk through the halls, music blasting in your headphones. They are the ones who always have their hands raised in class, and are always looking forward. I see them and I wonder, “Why are they the way they are?” and more importantly, “Why am I not like that?”
To get to the bottom of this dilemma, I sat down with Ms. Laurie Carrick, AHS guidance counselor and “positive psychology” extraordinaire. As it turns out, it’s my own damn fault why I’m not like that. And it’s your fault you aren’t like that. And it is that happy person’s fault that they are so joyous and positive and walking-on-a-rainbow. Carrick is without a doubt taking her own advice; I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone smile for an entire conversation.
According to Carrick, there is a science behind a person’s happiness level. Fifty percent of one’s happiness is based on what she calls one’s “genetic disposition,” another forty percent comes from the circumstances one is in. That leaves a mysterious ten percent completely in our control. That’s right, teenagers of the world, we actually have somewhat of a say in our emotions. Ten percent of a person’s mood comes from their “self-talk,” basically what a person tells themselves in their thoughts.
This, I did not believe. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and test out this happy-hypothesis for myself. I turned to ever-smiling senior Angie Lionetta for more insight. “Why would you choose to be sullen and boring and ugh all the time, like you waste more energy doing that, when you can be upbeat?” says Lionetta of her choice to maintain a rather cheerful disposition. Equally as peppy Connor Dwyer, a junior, shares Angie’s spark for life. “It’s just in my blood, just happiness in my blood,” Dwyer said, while wearing a grin across his face.
From only speaking to both of these wonderful people for short periods of time, it became evident to me how important “self-talk” really is. Happy people’s mindsets are a crucial part of who they are, and how they live their lives every day. “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel is how I see it,” Dwyer proclaimed. “You know what I mean, jelly bean?”
Lionetta could not have put it better. “I’ve just always felt like there are so many bad things that can happen to you in life. Why bother dwelling on them when you can focus on the positives and move on?” she stated, beaming ever so slightly.
I left both conversations quite giddy: the two share this infectious, jubilant quality that left me downright elated. Because, according to Carrick, all that “happiness is contagious” crap isn’t just crap. According to the studies of Martin Seligman, leader of the “positive psychology” frontier, generally happy people inhibit specific qualities or habits. And when a person—any person—starts to partake in said habits, an interest is sparked inside them. Soon, more and more of these habits will become part of their daily lifestyle, as they see themselves become a more joyful person.
“It’s a domino effect,” commented Carrick.
These habits vary vastly, from simply going outside and unplugging, to surrounding yourself with happy people. (For more information on these happy habits, you can refer to this article, referred to me by Carrick herself.)
Now don’t get me wrong, these happy people are still human. Their emotions vary, just as they should. “Even people who I think are happier than me get in bad moods: it happens, life happens,” said Dwyer. “But you know what? Us people with good attitudes, we jump out of that bad mood quicker, I think.”
In fact, they really do. Positivity and resiliency go hand in hand. A more positive mindset provides the “courage and energy” to deal with the challenges life throws at you, according to Carrick. It’s all about “keeping that mindset.”
Lionetta shed some light of her own on the subject. “I think sometimes the people here, their perceptions are skewed by the environment that we live in. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, I broke a nail, my life is over,’ but it’s like, there are so many other things that could go wrong.” For Lionetta, it’s all about being open to appreciating life and the little things, which, to no surprise, is one of the habits of a happy person.
This, for some people, is a task easier said than done. “It’s a process,” sighed Carrick. I think we can all agree, high school is a rough four years. During freshman year, “everyone is searching [for themselves],” according to Carrick. Through the years, students make friends and find activities where they can truly be themselves. But it is not an exact science. Even by senior year, “some people are still searching,” said Carrick. “It is all part of the human experience.”
So you didn’t do well on your bio test. I didn’t get into the college I wanted. He lost his baseball game. That girl who sits across from you got dumped. There’s no getting around it, high school most definitely has its downs. It’s a strange place, full of change and struggles and growth. No matter how times have changed or how bad things have gotten, no one seems to forget their high school experience. And as much as we would like to be somewhere else sometimes, we are here. So why not enjoy it while it lasts? Smile at that girl you walk by in the hall, wish your teacher “good morning.” Clearly, it doesn’t take much. Although it seems unimaginable now, maybe, just maybe, if we all try to be happy, one day we actually will be.
By Marisa Dellatto