Fly on the Wall—If You’re Unhappy And You Know It: Act Happy!

Easter and Our Potential For a Psyschospiritual Springtime

Fly on the Wall—If You’re Unhappy And You Know It: Act Happy!

Spring renewal is here!  Now if that phrase meets with a dejected sigh deep in the well of your being you’re not alone.  Being cheery while all the world’s springing into foliar and fornicatory glow, can be a tough ask in spring—lightheartedness can be much easier during the darkening decline of autumn as waning life and daylight seem a comforting companion.  We’re all going down together, as it were.  But let’s follow in the thematic footsteps of noted physicist Neils Bohr who, when Albert Einstein asked him why there was a good luck horseshoe above Bohr’s door, responded “I hear it brings luck to you whether you believe in it or not!”

Perspective matters as we traverse the seasons of life.  The sight of Easter displays, for even the most reticent curmudgeonly mind, can’t help but trigger an inner smile at memories of youthful Easter egg hunts.  My small town used to annually rent a helicopter and, circling over the high school sports fields, they would conduct an annual Easter Egg Drop.  Starved for sweets at having waited months since Christmas for a sufficient candy haul (save a few measly – even when vaxxed – Valentine’s cinnamon hearts), hundreds of local children (with parents safely stationed on the sidelines, if they behaved themselves) would rush out onto the fields to grab their reward.  Virtually at a moment’s notice the grass would be picked clean of coloured eggs and everyone would go home pleased with themselves.  It was only as a preteen that it occurred to me that in the real-world millions of people depend on aid dropped in their midst merely so they can eat and survive and be medicated.

Now, a few decades later, the unavoidable fact of people’s mental challenge stares us all in the face.  A recent national study in the USA revealed stark facts: “among current college students, over 50% reported hopelessness, over 30% felt depressed, over 60% experienced overwhelming anxiety and over 10% seriously considered suicide.” It’s a negative mic drop moment, if ever.

Scientific studies, notwithstanding social science research into the performance and role distance involved in being a pleasant service industry worker or non-Karen Wal Mart goer, show that we really are happier when we, as the McDonald’s slogan goes, put a smile on.

“About two dozen labs from 19 different countries worked together to test the instruction to grip a pen in the teeth or to mimic the expression of a smiling person in nearly 4,000 subjects.  The pen clenching still didn’t work, but people who were told to copy a smile did report better moods.  Remarkably, this was true even if the subjects didn’t believe it would work, another team reported in 2023.”  Score one for the popular physics fandom and their Bohr quote.

By contrast, and keep this one in your back pocket when facing sanctimonious do-gooder busybodies: “The researchers didn’t find clear evidence of benefits for volunteering, performing random acts of kindness or meditation … Being kind to others over a four-week period made no difference to well-being.”

Now, for anyone who’s seen the joy on a child’s face when you present them with a desirable toy, its easy to quibble with that final finding.  But it’s penultimate on our list anyway!

“In one study, scientists assigned 71 adults to act extroverted — “bold, talkative, outgoing, active and assertive” — for a week, and another 76 to be “unassuming, sensitive, calm, modest and quiet.” Participants in the extroverted condition reported better moods during the study week, though the benefits were less for those who were naturally introverted.” So, if you’re outgoing be more you, and if you’re not that’s okay too.

Unlike in kindergarten class where I was mildly lambasted for not participating in the song and dance routine for the tune “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, playing the part of a happy you really does make a difference.

Sometimes, like with academic coursework where we may regale others with the mountainous merits of our progress, we truly do have to practice what we preach.  Goals are one thing but finding a doable ascent is the key to actually getting there.  “Much of what we teach revolves around positive psychology interventions that divert your attention away from yourself, by helping others, being with friends, gratitude or meditating.  This is the opposite of the current ‘selfcare’ doctrine, but countless studies have shown that getting out of our own heads helps gets us away from negative ruminations which can be the basis of so many mental health problems.”

Beyond and above our methods and outcomes lies a generalized horizon, a true perspective as regards the widest view of our life.  Mythic bounties vividly illustrated during scheduled childhood boon periods; Halloween, for instance, starkly contrasts with the booms and busts of emotional life during our sojourns into adulting.  Sadness happens, miseries abide, and as we learn when visiting our elders in an old-folk’s home, the sidewalks of geriatric existence are paved with bitterness, recriminations, and scars that won’t heal.  Ironic!  Right when we have the least future to look forward to, or the least time to put off our life’s work and emotional labour, older folks can find themselves more depressed than ever before.  It behooves us, like young Easter lambs kicking up their heels and gambolling through a field irregardless of the Mama ewe’s concerned gaze over the invariable temporal approach of the abattoir’s hammer, to enjoy every moment of happiness and seek to create more joy for ourselves and others.  Life will end in a cosmic blink of an eye, to be sure.  But right now, in our studies and in our relationships, we are here in our very own eternity—this is it!

Bohr, N.  Retrieved from
Dance, A.  (2024).  ‘Here’s The Happiness Research That Stands Up to Scrutiny’.  Retrieved from
Dolan, E.  (2024).  ‘Happiness is a Habit: New Psychology Research Finds Continuous Pracice is Key’.  Retrieved from
Hobbes et al.  (2024).  ‘Long-term analysis of a psychoeducational course on university students well-being’.  SpringerLink.  Retrieved from