Being cheerful on the outside can help you – and others – feel it on the inside

Cheerfulness can boost your energy levels, even in tough times – as philosophers and writers have long recognised

“The surest sign of wisdom is a constant cheerfulness,” wrote the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne in the 16th century. “Be cheerful,” commands Prospero – arguably the wisest of all of Shakepeare’s characters – in The Tempest. Yet the impact of cheerfulness – and the power it gives us to get through difficult moments in our lives – is hard to define and easy to disregard or dismiss, even as we strive to be happy.

And that is one of the reasons Timothy Hampton, a professor in the department of comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to write a book about it. Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History explores how “cheerfulness” functions as a theme in the works of great philosophers and writers from Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and how it is portrayed in everything from 16th-century medical books to the Boy Scout handbook.

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