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Being Cheerful Encourages Civility

by Orlaine I. Gabert, Door County Civility Project

I recently learned of David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful project (reasonstobecheerful.world). In 2016, he began to collect good news for himself as both a remedy and a kind of therapy for the state of the world. Next he shared this news with New York. By 2018, he had started an online project in which anyone could find cheerful events and share their own. 

Seeking out his ideas set me to thinking about how they relate to civility. A definition of a cheerful person is one who “brings joy, humor or good spirits.” I’ve also found that happy people are often hopeful, optimistic, kind, positive, curious and authentic; they approach life with energy and zest; and they give and receive love. Consequently, it seemed to me that maintaining a cheerful attitude would be one key to maintaining a civil approach in all of our interactions.

I’d like you to think about what seems cheerful to you and ways in which cheerfulness affects you. A sunny day may lift your spirit, for example, and give you the energy to get out there and do something. A friendly smile may give you a feeling of contentment and well-being. Giggles can boost you to higher levels of cheer. A word of encouragement may give you a positive perspective on life and a desire to achieve your goals. Even when you face hardship, words of care and concern can help you to get through a hard time. 

Others’ cheerfulness helps us all to be civil in our interactions, and we can work on becoming more cheerful more frequently. First we must be comfortable in our own skin, honestly looking at who we are and acknowledging that, like everyone, we have some strengths and weaknesses. We also have many feelings that we can simply accept as our own. Then we can try to look at the bright side of things because we can accomplish much more on that side, and each positive occurrence increases happiness. 

It may also help to keep a journal, meditate, live healthfully, and, importantly, find a passion and act on it. When we have a constant that gives us pleasure, the other aspects of life are much more cheerful.

One more suggestion that has always worked for me is to turn on some of my favorite music at a high volume and sing along. Very soon I’m in a good place. There are so many songs that tell us to get happy despite an unpleasant mood. 

So start today to try being happy all day. Your happiness will reach out to others, then come right back to you. Smile!

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