Smatterings: Coffee, Exercise on the Brain, and Smiling

My Pleasant PlacesSmatterings is a regular “column” here at My Pleasant Places that comments on a selection of my favorite and/or most-informative or inspiring articles read on the web during the past week.

I like to pass on to my readers good posts/articles that have helped me in some way, and I also enjoy the opportunity to “put in my two bits” on a given subject.

Even though I may have read these posts within the past week (or so) does not mean that it was posted in the past week. I’m not trying to be “cutting edge” here, but helpful.

11 Reasons Why You Should Drink Coffee Every DayHuffington Post

I love how coffee has become the new “good for you” drink! I’m a believer! I can’t even remember when I started drinking coffee.

Among the many good—and maybe surprising—things mentioned about coffee in this article is the fact that Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee. The human body seems to absorb the antioxidants from coffee better than from fruits and vegetables.

Even the smell is good for you!

Physical Exercise and Brain HealthSharp Brains

So we know that exercise is good for the body, right? But did you know that it is good for the brain, too? Yes, it has been shown time and again that, in general, what’s good for the body is good for the brain, too.

The Sharp Brains article is just one of many, many articles that I have read that indicate the powerful effects of exercise on the whole person. It appears to decrease ones risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. So if you’re needing a kick in the pants to get started on an exercise regimen, that oughta do it. At least it motivates me! How about you? Are you willing to invest a little time and energy now to become the wise old lady or old man you want your grandchildren to enjoy and appreciate one day?

3 Ways to Boost Happiness that Sound Really Stupid But Actually WorkBarking Up the Wrong Tree

The “way to boost happiness” that I was particularly drawn to in this article was the second one: “Smile when life sucks.”

I have long been a student of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, and as such, I have lots of notes on the book.

Proverbs 15:30 says, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart…” (NIRV). On one read-through of Proverbs, I wrote: “Which comes first? The joy in the heart or the cheerful look? And whose cheerful look is it referring to? The person who has the joy in his heart or someone else?”

You may not be able to make sense out of my notes (they are, after all, my notes, not yours; right?), but the point I was investigating was this: Can we produce joy within our own hearts by simply smiling—even when we may not feel joy to begin with? And can we produce joy in someone else’s heart by offering them a genuine, heart-felt smile—even though they may not feel particularly joyful at the moment?

You can read the article for the scientific basis, but it does indeed appear that our face can tell our heart what to do. You should try it. Next time you’re feeling sad or not-so-happy for any reason, try smiling a genuine smile (one that uses your eyes as well as your mouth) and note the effect on your spirit.

And as for a smile’s effect on others, we all know that smiles are contagious. You’d have to be a a real jerk not to smile back at someone who offers you a smile, right? So if you initiate, and the un-smiling receiver returns a smile, then, at least momentarily, you have prompted a little joy into his/her heart.

I guess the answers to the questions I posed in my Bible study notes above are: 1) Being joyful can bring a smile to my face, but smiling on purpose can work the other way around, too, and prompt joy within; 2) just as a smile to myself can stir up joy within me, it can also stir up joy in another.

Will you smile more this week? Whether or not you are feeling particularly ‘smiley’? I’d love to hear the results!

“The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.” – Unknown

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