According to the dictionary to rejoice is “to feel or show great joy or delight.” I love that this definition separates out “to feel” and “to show” because this second part reminds me that joy can be a choice. One of my favorite ways of showing joy became, over time, one of my most effective parenting practices. Now that my children are grown and out of the house, I still use it to bring cheer to myself and others, especially when I’m not feelin’ it. My rejoicing practice? Smile.
A smile instantly relaxes the muscles and eases tension in your face. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “A tiny bud of a smile on our lips nourishes awareness and calms us miraculously. It returns us to the peace we thought we had lost.” We don’t always feel like smiling, especially when our child is doing something we strongly want them to stop. I suggest you “fake it ’til you make it” and “act as if.” Psychologist and philosopher, William James, was talking about these two practices when he said, “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling which is not. Thus, the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there . . . ”
Intention is the key. Choose to smile for the simple reason of uplifting the energy around you. That way you won’t be wearing a forced smile that says, you’d better do this, which can feel like manipulation to a child—and backfire. The simple act of wearing a slight smile does wonders. Think Mona Lisa here, not high school cheerleader, and remember the words of Mother Teresa, “You can give the poor even your life, but if you don’t do it with a smile, you give them nothing.”
This season, give yourself full permission to be ecstatic, be euphoric, be overjoyed and watch your whole world change (especially you) when you make it your choice to rejoice.