Not long ago I was driving my car, thinking back to a funny conversation I’d just had. The thought had me smiling as I drove along. A car came from the opposite direction and the driver smiled on seeing my smile. That made me wonder how many people would respond to a smile with their own. I decided to prolong the smile. The action produced an even bigger smile and pretty soon I was grinning. I didn’t count the amount of smiles that were returned, but there were lots.
I read up on smiling and this is what I read:
A happy smile brings about a better-feeling mood. You can experiment yourself. Put a smile on your face (even if you don’t feel like smiling) and try to keep smiling for about a minute. See if your mood shifts up a notch towards more happiness.
The muscles used in smiling seem to have that real effect. This means that even if you’re not feeling too cheerful you can still ‘fake’ a smile for a short while and you will actually start to feel better, as the action releases endorphins, serotonin and other biochemical substances in the body. That’s because when people activate muscle groups that link to specific emotions, their body will react as though they are really experiencing that emotion. If you wrinkle your nose and narrow your eyes your body will release some adrenaline and your heart rate may speed up as though you are angry. If you mimic a smile by lifting the creases of your lips and squinting your eyes, your body will release serotonin, dopamine and other “feel-good” indicators.
Research has shown that smiling brings about a definite and measurable reduction in blood pressure. If you don’t believe this, the next time you’re having your blood pressure checked, ask the doctor or health professional to let you smile for a minute or two after the first reading, and then take a second reading and see if it’s the same or lower than the first one.
Smiling boosts the immune system. If you smile a lot you can expect your body’s immune system to benefit, reducing your chances of getting ailments.
A study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated the impact of smiling on life satisfaction. Researchers analyzed the yearbook pictures of 111 smiling women at age 21, fifty of which displayed authentic smiles. Participants expressing genuine positive emotions in their yearbook picture were more likely to be married and have higher well-being than their non-smiling classmates. This study was replicated in Australia in 2006 and demonstrated similar results.
There is also the process known as emotional contagion. According to a researcher from Lund University in Sweden, mimicking a person’s bodily state or facial expression causes physical responses in the receiver’s body that are identical to those in the sender’s.
So become the centre of a positive change ripple. “Be,” as Mahatma Gandhi said, “the change you want to see in the world.” Take advantage of this knowledge and make it a point to practice giving a happy smile whenever you can.
* When you get up in the morning, make a point of smiling at the new day. Hold the smile for over a minute.
* When you make eye contact with someone, offer a happy smile and see how that lifts the mood of both you and the recipient of the smile.
* When you’re feeling in any way not on top of your form, smile for a while to boost your mood and energy levels.
* As soon as you feel the slightest negativity starting to surface in you, take the conscious decision to smile a while, and see what happens.
* Decide this minute that from now on you will smile as often as you can, not only when you’re alone, but also when you’re in the company of others.