Written by Dylan
Published on September 13, 2015

Email Brain Gym ~

I have this friend who shall remain nameless in this essay. He is the undisputed master of the terse reply. At least in texts and emails. He excels at the one-word answer and has taken to new heights the less-than-complete sentence.  I sometimes think he may be in the process of creating his very own language!

When I am reading his replies, I think of it as “email brain gym”. The challenge of filling in the blanks is all good work for the cognitive processes, however, I admit that sometimes I am left wanting more. Such as a signature. To be fair, I do a little shorthand here and there myself. I sign off as D instead of Dylan, assuming people can figure that one out. With my friend, nothing. No name, no letter, no “see you later,” no nothin’. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Now I am not generally a competitive person, however, I feel challenged by this. I love words; the more, the merrier. Too many, sometimes. But my inbox is usually over-full, so I am thinking, I need to learn something from this guy!

So I have a new way to save unnecessary verbiage and finger movements on my phone and computer.

The Smiley ~

It’s called the smiley. I became a smiley user rather late in my electronic life. Long after the masses embraced the smiley I resisted, not wanting to cutify my communications. However, inspired by another friend who tends to load up my text box (i.e., the inbox for texts) with smileys, I decided to get up to speed.

What I have found is that the smiley is the answer to everything! It takes one keystroke, and you are done. No more lengthy replies, no excess typing. Everyone walks away happy. Fear not, there are now smileys for all purposes. There are Cute Smileys, Grinning Smileys,  Flag Smileys, Winking Smileys,  Jumping Smileys, Laughing Smileys,  Love Smileys, Rolleye Smileys, Happy Smileys, and smileys of all colors.

Oddly, there are “Indifferent Smileys” which seems like a bit of a contradiction to me. Can you be smiling and indifferent at the same time? “Mad Smileys” and “Sad Smileys”; huh? These are still smileys? Shouldn’t they be called Sadleys or Madleys? I thought they were supposed to smile.  Well, I guess things have changed since the early days of the smiley.

See the wonderful and wide variety of smileys available here:


Success in Life ~

There are various criteria I could use to determine my success in life. After a counseling session, I could say all is well because someone is more relaxed, has more insight, or enjoys better self-esteem. After a fitness or yoga class, I could gauge my effectiveness according to people’s reports of increased strength or flexibility.

But what matters most to me is their happiness. If I have helped someone smile and get in touch with their capacity to feel joy, I know I have succeeded.

Interesting Research About Smiling ~

It seems that smiles are not just reflecting an emotional state; they have an effect all their own.

In one study it was found that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy. (Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/smiling-facilitates-stress-recovery.html)

In 1989, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc published a study on the emotional effect of smiling. (Zajonc, R. B., Murphy, S. T. & Inglehart, M. (1989). “Feeling and facial efference: Implications for the vascular theory of emotion.” Psychological Review, 96(3), 395-416).

Other studies suggest that facial expressions may cause emotions.  In one, researchers found that instructing people to place the muscles of their face in the physical pattern of a given emotional expression elicited that feeling.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/18/science/a-feel-good-theory-a-smile-affects-mood.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

There is a controversy on the internet about how many muscles it takes to frown versus to smile. Does it really take more muscles to frown than to smile? Some say it depends on the type of smile. Some say it depends on the degree of frown. I say, “Who Cares?!” When you are doing something authentic that feels good, it becomes effortless regardless of how many muscles it takes.

Let’s Do This ~

Let’s go around smiling at everyone, even the ones who are scowling and seem intent on making our day harder than it needs to be. Let’s smile at all the children who are already in the smiling groove and who seem to melt into smiles readily and easily, even for strangers. I worry about the children who have lost this capacity because they are too young to have to carry the big burdens that make them reluctant to smile.  So, let’s smile at all the reluctant smilers and the non-smilers we encounter. The madleys and the sadleys. Sometimes a simple smile can completely turn around someone’s day.

A Bigger Challenge ~

Smile at yourself. Not just in the mirror, but all day long. Imagine being in your own presence and smiling in delight at how wonderful you are. A silent “I love you” directed towards yourself is another way to appreciate your own good company.

Remember what Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang in the first line of “Wooden Ships”?

“If you smile at me I will understand ’cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.” ~ Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O69L2mO9y-4)

Have a great day!