By Bella Filippi
I’m going to be honest with you. For the past few weeks, I have been experiencing intense homesickness that has affected my routine, my capacity of reading, writing and even working. I have not been to my hometown, Caracas, Venezuela, since 2015. This past month I missed more celebrations including my grandparents’ birthdays and two nationals holidays that are the perfect excuse for barbecues and family gatherings.
Yesterday, while I was talking to my Abuela back home, I told her that I was feeling a little depressed, lost and super frustrated because I feel lonely without them. I know that living alone and studying abroad was something that I always wanted it but now that I’m living it, it feels like a lot is missing. She told me that right now I’m in the right place in my life and that I just need to be patient because I’m doing what I’ve always wanted. I used to live in a house full of people, my parents, my grandparents, my aunt, my younger sister and my mom’s cat. It was a house full of noise, now I can only hear the cicadas through my living room window while writing this.
My grandmother’s words drew a smile on my face that I’m still wearing today, I also woke up feeling better and more determined to smile through the day. Turns out there’s a scientific reason for that.
So I did what any sad person does, I started Googling to find some magical words and I found this great article from NBC News that explained how smiling can lift our moods, lower our stress levels, and believe it or not, improve our immune system. Isn’t that great? It might even prolong our life.
Based on this research, feeling happy is something that we can create. Neurologist, Dr. Isha Gupta, explains that we are in control of our emotions. A smile is a powerful thing that releases a bunch of hormones like dopamine and serotonin. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness,” she says. “Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression.”
We all have good days and bad days, we are humans! What I usually do to make me smile is to go for a short walk around the beach to clear my head, brew a strong cup of Cuban coffee and put that smile on.
What do you do when you need to cheer up yourself?