The cheerful beggar is far happier than the melancholy millionaire. As sources of happiness, neither wealth, nor fame, nor beauty, nor power, nay, not even health itself, can for a moment be compared with a cheerful disposition.
As a rule, health and cheerfulness are associated together in the same persons; but, in the rare cases when this is not so, we find that health fails to secure happiness, and that a confirmed invalid may be happy in spite of weakness and bodily pain.
There are many delicate women, condemned by what seemed a cruel fate to pass their lives on a sofa, who have, by their cheerful endurance of the inevitable, so far conquered fortune as to be happy themselves and make all around them happy. So true it is that our happiness depends on ourselves, that is, on our minds, far more than on the gifts of fortune.
Another great advantage of cheerfulness is that it enables a man to do better work and prevents him from being easily exhausted. This truth is well expressed by the homely words of the Shakespearian song, that tells us how “A merry heart goes all the day, the said tires in a mile.”
The labourer who whistles over his work, goes home less tired and can work harder than another who, as he labours, broods over real or imaginary troubles. This is also true of intellectual work, which is seriously impaired by depression of spirits.
Therefore, as the cheerful man is happy himself, and by his cheerfulness adds to the happiness of all who come into contact with him, and in addition is enabled to work all the better because of his cheerfulness, it is a plain duty for everybody to do his best to cultivate a cheerful spirit.
But some will say that cheerfulness is a gift of nature, and cannot be attained by any effort of the will. There is a certain amount of truth in this objection. It is true that some men are born with cheerful dispositions, and others with a melancholy temperament.
Nevertheless, it is possible for the cheerful person to make himself more cheerful, and for the melancholy man to diminish his tendency to depression of spirits.
The two best means for the attainment of this desirable end are plenty of congenial work, and attention to the rules of health. Although, as was said above, it is possible for the healthy to indulge in melancholy, it is almost always found that improvement of health promotes cheerfulness.
A very large part of the melancholy in the world is due to preventable indigestion. The connection between cheerfulness and regular occupation is not quite so close, but experience of life shows that the greatest depression of spirits is to be found among those who either won’t work or unfortunately cannot get work.
Therefore, if we wish to be cheerful, we must be careful of our health and avoid idleness. By so doing we shall become more cheerful, and the effect will react on the cause; for we shall find that in its turn our cheerfulness will improve our health and the quality of our work.