A sweet surprise

by Jan on November 18, 2011

Bag of candy

“There is a way of breathing that’s a shame and suffocation. And there’s another way of expiring, a love- breath that lets you open infinitely.” ~Rumi, 13th century poet

The smile

This morning, while on a short vacation, I encountered a woman walking to her nearby hotel room. I smiled and said “good-morning” and when she smiled back I asked “how are you today?

I just feel so happy today,” she said. “I think this is going to be a very good day.

She seemed a bit surprised by that “happiness” thought. It was like a revelation to her on that crisp sunny morning–as though it was not a feeling she had often. She had looked inside and saw that she was truly happy at that moment.

Our interaction gave me a moment to ask where I was on the scale of happiness. Now I was not in a bad mood. I was just not thinking about my emotional state at that moment. But she seemed so authentically happy and positive that I suddenly felt happier and the day seemed to bear more promise after I saw her. Even thinking back to this brief interaction gives me a little lift.

I became curious. I walked as fast as I could–back to my room to find more about the role that positive emotions play in our lives. I came across a talk by Barbara Fredrickson, PHD, which deals with the many ways that our positive emotions, hope and happiness, affect our lives in a positive way.

A little bag of candy

With a bag of candy (not enough for a sugar high) as a small gift before or after each experiment, Dr. Fredrickson tests her subjects to find their emotional state. She has found that a little treat makes a big difference in their achievements and even the world-view of participants when they receive it before the experiment.

Her studies demonstrate that when a student receives a small bag of candy before a math test they do better—their thinking and memory improve. She even suggests that it can assist a doctor in making better medical decisions. Guess what I’m bringing to my next doctor’s visit?

Small gifts are a tradition found in many parts of the world. The act of giving and receiving creates a bond, which can lead to a more positive feeling. And it can open up a sense of mutual appreciation and connection.

The idea that an offering in the form of candy is made as a gesture of caring, is an important part of the experiments. It is in the giving that one receives.

It is no surprise that positive emotions help us to see more possibilities. They help us to be more creative, more resilient and more able to focus on the bigger picture in our lives. And it is no surprise that positive emotions lead to more trust and more likelihood that there will be a win-win outcome in the various situations in our lives.

A gift to ourselves

Some of us don’t think about giving ourselves that special treat or even a gift as small as taking a few moments in each day to center us. Sometimes can be a longer time-out for a walk outside or taking a bubble bath. It always lifts our spirit to take a moment of gratitude. We do have a least one thing to be happy about.

When we give that gift to others, even a smile or kind gesture, it serves the greater good. When we are kind to ourselves something evolves in us. A whole list of choices and possibilities might open up that can rock our worlds.

We are the shift that will take place. We are the place that positive emotions start.

As Albert Einstein says, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.


Thank you so much. I have known this for years, but in the past few years I have let it slip away. I used to teach this concept to employees, but now I don’t do it myself. Thank you. You’ve come at a very special moment. Here is a smile, a hug, and small envelope of gratitude.

by Sharon on November 22, 2011 at 11:49 am. #

Sharon ~ Thank you for taking the time to return the happiness and joy. We’ll all keep the circle of gratitude and kindness expanding!

Hope on Hope

by Elizabeth@HopeOnHope on November 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm. #

Thank you, Jan, for a wonderful article! I love your thought, “It is in the giving that one receives”, and the following paragraph is power-packed! I love “Hope on Hope™”. :)

by Thomas Waterhouse on November 23, 2011 at 1:21 am. #

Thanks for the encouragement, Thomas!
Hope on Hope

by Elizabeth@HopeOnHope on November 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm. #