The half-mature squirrel leap-frogged across a patch of the yard yesterday as it grazed for food. Her nonchalant manner of leaping, grasping a morsel, sitting on her hindquarters, and consuming the food increased my happy mood yesterday. The little rodent just seemed more cheery than the other squirrels consuming their yard buffet.
I knew I was anthropomorphizing, but that made no difference to my own upbeat mood. The little creature was cute and seemed content. When she sat upright, her forelegs dangled limply. She briefly looked like a miniature version of a tyrannosaurus rex. The absurdity of that comparison caused me to laugh.
Without too much analysis, the description of yesterday’s observation of the small animal’s behavior, resulted in my personal delight. What I interpreted as the squirrel’s carefree attitude, contributed to my own attitude. In other words, the apparently cheerful squirrel caused me to feel cheerful, too.
It seems that feeling cheery depends upon a person’s mental state or perhaps having an overall default, cheery personality. In order to feel cheery, there needs to be a seed or nugget of cheerfulness present. In yesterday’s case, I was already enjoying a happy mood. Observing the contented, tween squirrel as she moved about on the yard increased my level of happiness. So it was a matter of a positive state being present within and around the critter and me.
Cheery attitudes fascinate me because they seem so unique to primates and other mammals. I cannot envision a cheery insect nor an upbeat lizard. Snakes do not represent happiness and mirth in their natural habitat. Meantime, cats, dogs, and chimpanzees appear to experience a wide range of emotional states.
The same seems true for squirrels, too. The casually grazing squirrel looked happy until the arrival of a cat. The once “happy” squirrel became fearful and scampered up the nearest tree. It sat on a branch and scolded the cat in an “angry” manner. This change from cheerful squirrel to unhappy squirrel unfolded naturally without premeditation. As I watched the lawn-drama, my own mood changed to one of concern.
It is my personal belief that one of our human requirements is to experience cheerful happiness. In order to enhance our own cheeriness, it behooves us to share happiness with others. Every major religion and wisdom tradition teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we do not love ourselves very much, we cannot honestly love our neighbors. When we love ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us, we feel an uplifting passion about life. Who among us cannot feel cheerful while experiencing positive passion? Such cheer is naturally contagious.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer and politician, Joseph Addison. “Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.”