Thoughts Along the Path . . .

I read an article this morning about brain health, wellbeing, and serotonin. Perhaps you already know that it is a substance in your brain, present at varying levels, and nicknamed “the happy chemical.” In addition to its ability to elevate mood, it also has a role in memory, learning, and a long list of physiological functions.

Science tells us that when we create serotonin, we feel happy — and of course that’s a good thing. This has me wondering: What causes us to create serotonin in the first place? The answer seems to differ somewhat from person to person, but positive social engagement is a source for almost everyone.

I decided to test this during a walk around town this afternoon. I always enjoy walking around Ayr — almost as invigorating as my training runs through town. So I suppose it is no surprise that I experienced pleasure in seeing others today. We said hello, we commented on the weather, we smiled and waved from across the street, and we laughed when we both ended up in the street rather than the sidewalk, each of us showing courtesy to the other in respect of COVID.

Though not everyone took the moment to exchange a smile or to greet me, no one was rude. I thought about this brief quotation from Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, as I extended friendliness to people without an expectation about whether they would visibly return it. “(L)ook upon him with a bright and friendly face.”

I previously knew by name or sight only one person who I passed this afternoon, so these happy moments came from so-called strangers. That made little difference in my feeling of happiness. As written by Abdul-Baha: “See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends.”

What about you? What makes you happy? How do you experience it? How do you express it? Very importantly: Do you know that happiness is contagious?

Abdul-Baha explained that idea in passages such as this one: “. . . as diseases in the world of bodies are extremely contagious, so, in the same way, qualities of spirit and heart are extremely contagious . . . both health and sickness are contagious.”

Here we are in a pandemic when keeping physically distant is a way of showing respect for others as well as a means for enhanced self-care. I realized today that “contagion” is not always a bad thing. As much as I hope we don’t “catch” COVID from each other, I also hope that we can “catch” happiness instead.

What if we could have a pandemic of happiness? Just thinking about that makes me smile, too.

 

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Submitted to Ayr News by Jaellayna Palmer, December 2020

© Jaellayna Palmer 2020