When was the last time you did something for the first time? When did you last smile? When did you last laugh out loud? When did you lose track of time just chatting with someone? When did you last learn something new? 

In this season of cold, mud and neutral colors, happiness can sometimes hibernate. If you know where to look and keep your eyes open for new places, happiness will jump out of hiding and give you a quick kiss on the cheek.

Happiness isn’t perfection. Happiness is letting little bursts of good paint the day for you. For instance, every morning my alarm clock screams a wake-up call. This does not make me happy. When I press snooze and snuggle under my cozy blankets for nine more minutes, however, I’m happy.

Happiness is learning, discovering and appreciating new things. I made the connection a month or so ago about the reason I feel colder when I first climb in my bed at night than when I’m standing next to it about to get in. It is because the atoms in my sheets are closer together than the atoms in the air so they absorb more energy, leaving me chillier. It’s a scary thing to realize chemistry is seeping into your brain at bedtime but epiphanies make me happy.

Smiling and laughing are universal expressions of happiness. A baby learns to smile and laugh before he has his first birthday; clearly it is an important part of life. Even on dark, dreary, ugh-I-hate-the-world days, a reason to smile or laugh can be found. 

Laugh at your frizzy hair or your friend’s corny joke. Smile at the cashier or when you finally find an F chord your stubborn fingers can play well on the guitar or when someone smiles at you. You should almost always smile back. When I smile at someone and they stare blankly back I want to stomp my foot and take back my smile.

People can either bring you great joy or great angst. When a person makes you feel good inside it is easy to lose track of time. You met someone at the bookstore or ran into an old friend at the store. Suddenly you’re late for something and leave wondering where the past hours went. The time whipped by but the memory and joy will linger.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Doing something new can raise your mood. If it was a while ago or you can’t remember it’s time to revisit your bucket (or to do) list and embrace a new experience. If you can’t go and do, try Google. You’re only a keyboard away from new knowledge and thoughts.

This time of year is dull. Everything is dead and cold and muddy and brown but you can appreciate the natural beauty around you even if there aren’t crocuses or flip-flops in the front yard. Notice the stunning beauty of the stars on a clear night. Smell the crisp air. Listen to the silence of winter and the hum of cabin fever. The more you notice the more beauty you’ll see.

If the world still seems dull and unhappy I suggest you set out to create some joy. Read your favorite book for the seventh time. Bond with your newest obsession on Netflix. Try putting your headphones in to tune out the world. Take a nap. Help a stranger. 

Whatever you decide to try, the only way you’re going to feel happy is if you look for the good, embrace life, and consider some change. Appreciate the present without anticipating the future. Don’t rehash the past (again). Apologize, forgive, move on and learn from your mistakes. If you’re feeling down listen to your heart, do what makes you happy, and never forget to giggle.

Kate Ahearn is a sophomore at Unatego Junior-Senior High School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk

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