Smiling In the Dark (And Why You Should be Doing This)

appreciating the good in life
My friend often finds herself smiling in the dark just after switching off her bedside lamp.

She has a daughter named Claire.  Claire is an adorable five-year-old who was born with a heart defect that has already required open-heart surgery once.

The smallest airborne virus poses a particular threat to Claire’s body because of her vulnerability to life-threatening pneumonia.

Fortunately, Claire’s mother has some good coping skills for dealing with the stress.  Each night, before drifting off to sleep, she and her husband recall the funny things Claire has done during the day.

Claire has an adventurous spirit.  She’s always laughing, inventing games, or trying to argue her way out of punishments for ideas she took a little too far.

My friend practices the art of “taking in the good,” which is the term used by neuroscientist, Rick Hansen in his book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

By recounting the funny things Claire did during the day, she develops the habit of appreciating what is good.

Rick Hansen advises us to practice this with all kinds of small things.  He gives a personal example of peeling an orange, which he does several times each day.

He allows himself to focus on the delicious citrus smell as he peels the orange… purposefully allowing himself to wonder at the fact that no one else has ever seen the inside of this particular orange.

He allows himself to slow down and savor the taste of the orange inside, purposefully appreciating the good flavor.

He calls this “taking in the good” because it is a mental act of encouraging the mind to focus on the good things in life… even the seemingly insignificant good things.

By doing so, we actually rewire our brains over time.  We develop a mental habit that causes us to be happier people.

It happens gradually.  The brain develops stronger neural circuits associated with the habit of noticing what is good and appreciating the small things in life as it unfolds.

I think people who meditate have known this for years. But it’s fun to see scientists unraveling the brain science behind these benefits.

Because you read my emails, you know I put a high value on happiness.  I value happiness for its own sake. But there is a very powerful side benefit.  Which is that happiness tends to attract positive relationships.

appreciating the good in lifeA happy person is more approachable.  A happy person glows because of the way she frequently smiles…a special light in her eyes.

Happiness unlocks mental energy.  That energy shows off your vibrancy, which is particularly sexy.

Is there room in your hectic schedule to practice taking in the good?

You don’t have to do it perfectly or completely.  Pick two aspects of your daily schedule.

Then slow down, focus your mind on what’s good, and capture a memory of that positive experience.

You might think of it as buried treasure.  When you find something to appreciate, you’ve discovered a gem.  It’s a gem of happiness.

These gems are buried at your feet.  They are all around you, but you have to slow down enough to appreciate them and take them in.

As you take them in, you build up a storehouse of treasure within.  The treasure is happiness. And it is the greatest gift you can bring to any man lucky enough to find himself in a relationship with you.

Always on your side,

James Bauer


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27 thoughts on “Smiling In the Dark (And Why You Should be Doing This)

  1. Cindy said:

    THANK YOU SO… MUCH. THIS MAKES MY DAY!

  2. Kitty Murray said:

    I really enjoyed this article. I have a son who suffers from depression. I will really make an effort to do this every day, especially around him. Thanks so much James!

  3. Maureen said:

    I love this! It is wonderful way to lower stress and bring a little peace to your body and mind right before you fall asleep. Amazing way to end your day.

  4. Noelle said:

    This is the same principle behind keeping a gratitude journal, which Oprah & Sarah Ban Breathnach touted many years ago. Oprah promised that it would change your life in the most profound way. I was skeptical but started keeping one & was amazed how within just a few weeks my whole outlook turned around & I felt so peaceful & happy inside. I enjoyed searching for small things each day that I could later write about. I became so good at finding things each day that after a while I didn’t even need to write about them, it was enough just to take notice of them. It felt like a miraculous transformation for me & I always encourage friends who need a boost of happiness in their life to do the same thing. Thank you James for sharing this & explaining the science behind the phenomenon! 🙂

  5. Monica said:

    Love it, James…It’s SO TRUE! I like to think of doing that practice as “recognizing my BLESSINGS!” =) I believe, they are PURE GIFTS truly “given” to us all from a loving God– all we have to do is BE OPEN to them!! =)
    Not sure that it “attracts a positive relationship” (with a man! lol!) … I’m still waiting…
    ~Monica

  6. Pendo said:

    Thank you James for pointing this out to me. I have practiced this most of my life and I felt soothed by the fact that it would seem I am not ‘crazy’. My boyfriend recently said to me that I am too calm he need to take tranquilizers sometimes to deal with it. This is because I have learnt (maybe from childhood) to appreciate all that is good in people situations places and things. The downside being that sometimes I stay in unhealthy relationships longer than I should.

  7. Marie said:

    Thanks James! I’ve been forgetting to do this lately, and I’ve sufferer for it! You have reminded me to get back making gratitude a constant state of mind. God bless you!

  8. Ayanna said:

    James, tell your wife I’m taking you home with me! You’re so wonderful! Thank you for your insights! You’re a blessing to many! =)

  9. Bonnie said:

    I really needed to read this especially when in my logical head nothing seems to be going right. I will try look for these gems everyday.

  10. Karen said:

    This reminds me of my practice of taking short mental vacations on a regular basis, sometimes proactively remembering a fun or inspiring place I’ve been and sometimes triggered by a sound or smell. Your suggestion is a way to both savor a moment in real time and add a second treasure trove to my treasure trove of travel memories, to draw some peace and happiness in a slightly different way. Thanks

  11. Johanan said:

    James, thank you for this sound advice. I have been doing this for about seven years now and it has positively influenced my thinking. Who knew it could be so simple to be happy, joyous and free..

  12. Hadassah Smith said:

    thanks for the inspirational article. i’m going to try this

  13. Portugie said:

    James,
    This is so on point for me. As I continued to read, I could visualize the “orange” color, scent, taste and texture. Like any other fresh cold fruit, it gives a scence of fullness and uplift…GOOD FEELINGS. :0)
    Thank you

  14. susan said:

    This was a much needed article, especially knowing how dark the world is
    becoming today. We sometimes just need to get out of our head and into
    our heart. Thank you

  15. bernadette said:

    Thanks so much for your continual incite and mindfulness of the simple things in life that mean so much. If you “click your heels together three times, and say there is no place like home.” You find you have the power to be happy within you all the time. Its obvious, if you look at it, the best relationships start with a strong and loving relationship with yourself. Namaste Bernadette

  16. Nina Bains said:

    I love your blog it makes me very happy and energized.

    • James Bauer said:

      Awesome! That’s encouraging.

  17. nekky said:

    Thanks a lot James. Lately I found happiness and I have noticed that people commend me a lot these days and they keep asking me the secret. I used to be so bitter so I get angry at everyone and everything. I think my radiation came from letting go of every sad activities and concentrating on the happy moments.

  18. Jen said:

    This in itself is a gem. Thanks for this uplifting blog!

  19. Robs said:

    Amongst the other things i pay gratitude and find happiness , your emails are also one of them.. I love reading your emails, its like a beacon and advice from a sincere friend and true self..Thank you for bringing me light in the Dark..

    • James Bauer said:

      That is very kind of you. Thanks.

      James

  20. Meliss said:

    Hi James. Thank you so much for your blogs. This one especially “made sense” and am sure will hope. So many of your topics seem to turn up at just the right time. So thank you once again x

  21. Laura said:

    I recommend to take a “conscious” shower each day. Stop and concentrate on what the water feels on your skin, what does the warmth feel like, how does it feel when the water slides across your closed eyelids etc. What does you shower cream smell like, what flavor is it. Can you hear the water dropping on the floor, what does that sound like. Can you hear it going down the drain. Note that everything is okay in that moment, how wonderful it feels to stand there under that warm water.

    This is more like mindfulness (concentrating on this particular moment, realizing life happens here and now) but makes you really appreciate your showers more and you get so much out of that moment. Makes you feel alive :).

    • James Bauer said:

      You explained that very well. Thanks for adding your recommendation!

  22. Krassimira said:

    This is beautiful, James! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Reenie said:

    BEAUTIFUL, you always have such incredible wisdom to share! I so want to find a man that has your sensitivity and wisdom!! I particularly loved your last sentence about a man being lucky enough to be in a relationship with me!! Wow, I needed to hear that one! I am trying to concentrate on that very issue! It’s different for me, as all my life I would think how lucky I was, which could be true, but never how lucky HE was to have ME!! In my golden years now, I have come to accept and realize I do have a LOT to offer in a relationship and that helps to keep me focused on my value and that I no longer give it so freely! Now I know and understand that any man that wins my heart, will be DAMN lucky!!! 😉 180 shift for me!! Thank you Jim for your wisdom and insights, they really make a girl smile!! 🙂 Do you have a “Twin”!!??

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