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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Motherly Advice

Mother’s Day is almost here, and my Facebook feed will be filled with pictures and poems and favorite mom memories. It’s one of my favorite social media “events” because I love seeing how much my friends look like their moms and reveling in the impact mothers have.

When I do school visits, students will ask me why I wrote The Haunted House Project, they always ask me why I wrote the book, what inspired me, and what the ultimate message is.  I usually stumble through an answer about hope and love and tenacity, but this close to Mother’s Day, I realize how much of it is a book of Mother’s advice.

It’s making me think about the best advice my mom ever gave me. As a teen, of course, I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard. I probably even told her that.

I went a few rounds in the ring with depression. Negative self-talk punched me in the head (you’re stupid), in the gut (You’re ugly), and in the side (No one likes you) over and over again.

My mom used to say, “Smile more.”

I used to think, “You don’t get it. It’s not that simple.”

And let me say for the record, no it’s not. Obviously, depression isn’t that simple.

But I’ve learned that despite thinking my mom was ridiculous for saying it to me, she was right.

Smiling more is good.

I teach emotional contagion theory in Interpersonal Communication class. An oversimplified explanation is moods can be contagious. I find that when I smile at people, they smile back. I know I tend to gravitate toward people who are smiling. I perceive them to be more positive.

Sometimes, it takes effort. If I’m tired or engrossed in work, and my child runs up excited to tell me something, I may have to remind myself to smile back, knowing that the scowl on my face signals to her that I don’t care. It’s a combination of emotion work and self-monitoring. And I fail. Quite a bit, actually.

And know that I’ve been there. When you’re down, smiling seems stupid. Certainly, it won’t solve depression either.

However, more often than not crabby begets crabby; happy begets happy. So, I’m going to keep on trying to smile more.

Because my mama told me so. 

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