It isn’t really necessary for me to tell you that smiling is good for you, that it is associated with good things in our lives. You already know it. You knew it every time you smiled when you learned something new or how something worked.
Your mother knew it too when she smiled at you when you were born. When you made a new friend or got a new job or earned a good grade on your test, a smile was there. You did let out a little bit of a smile, even if it was the crinkles around your beaming eyes.
Maybe you didn’t notice because you weren’t looking in the mirror, and maybe nobody saw you or acknowledged or told you, but every time there was joy in your life, there was a smile.
A smile, like a picture, transcends cultural boundary and conceptual boundaries.
There is alchemy, a magical science, behind the smile. It can infect the world with laughter, joy and humor, all of which boost the functioning of the mind, the brain, and the intelligence. It actually reinforces and adds texture to our experience of positive emotions, like appreciation, happiness or love.
Instinctual & primal
Smiling says so much and with so few words. From the beginning of time, a smile indicated a lack of hostility and a willingness to share and communicate. It has also been used as an extension of diplomatic well wishing throughout history. Smiling is not something that one has to study arduously and learn over a period of time…it is instinctual and primal.
A smile costs nothing. It has been investigated as medicine and as a healing agent; it is here now and always has been available. It is practiced by newborns as well as centenarians, and it is acknowledged in every country throughout the world. Smiling is a globally accepted panacea that history, research and clinical data confirm is one of the simplest therapies for whatever it is that ails you.
The practice of smiling can positively affect your own life. Smiling, as Dr. David Allen, M.D., explains “…is a simple facial movement, the contraction of just a few muscles in the face, that can dramatically change our internal state. What I mean by internal state is how we feel, think, what body sensations we have, our attitudes and our points of view.”
So often, we seek to remedy our physical, mental, spiritual and social relations through “…psychotherapy, drugs, religion, sports, travel, and sex just to name a few. Smiling costs less, you can do it all by yourself, and the results are immediate,” Dr. Allen says. Smiling fits the global demand for simple solutions.
Powerful & practical
There is nothing so powerful and practical as a smile — nothing that can so easily bring about harmony and respect, nothing that so universally elicits a positive response from others, than the simple act of smiling. If something takes a lot of effort or is beyond the experience of the average person, there is only a slim chance that people will follow through.
They have to choose where they make their commitments, and even when people, whether they are patient or a healthy individuals, may want to make changes and transformations in their mental, emotional or physical state(s), they are just not equipped with enough time or motivation or money to stick with the standard clinical methods of bringing about change in a healthy personal and social attitude.
There are just too many factors working against a person, even if they are sincerely seeking change and healthy new growth and integration within themselves and in society. With the innumerable varieties of psychology available today, the premise of Ockham’s razor is the still the best measure: “The simpler the proposal or theory, the better!”
But smiling is anything but simple. The smile results from complex biochemical, bioelectrical and emotional mental factors. The brain receives messages from all over the body — including the 42 muscles that regulate our facial expressions.
Thus, in the physical act of smiling, our facial muscles send a “feel-good” message to the brain. Like the heart’s message, this signal from the facial muscles also helps to create and sustain positive emotions.
Psychologist Paul Ekman discovered that a spontaneous authentic smile, or the Duchenne smile — the spontaneous and authentic smiling with your lips, with your eyes, and with your heart — was accompanied by increased activity in an area of the brain known as the left prefrontal cortex. This area, the positive seat of emotions or pleasure center, brings about a sense of euphoria, happiness, joy, and genuine well-being. So, by smiling, you actually change the pattern of information going from your body to your brain.Â
This has big impact on health and well-being, both short-term and long-term. Even if you are not doing the authentic, heartfelt Duchenne smile, you still get brain activity in the pleasure centers, producing positive emotions by just acting like you’re smiling.
There are authentic smiles and inauthentic smiles, but we must also realize there is an authentic try at being happy, and an authentic try at smiling.
The smile has the power to bring about a healthy personal attitude in the sense that the biochemistry and emotions behind a smile serve to optimize social interactions. Since smiling is an integral part of social life, and in some societies an integral part of spiritual and health practices, it is time-proven. The smile can transform an individual into an optimally self-actualized person.
Smiling is a simple, effective, and universal way to communicate with yourself internally, as well as being a way to communicate externally with those you meet in life.
A smile can be your greatest tool in negotiations, relationships, and elsewhere in your daily personal life. Don’t underestimate its simplicity. When an individual relates to others in society, the smile is a simple innate response that works to bring about healthy cooperation.
It is essential.
Appreciation for all life
Communicate your joy, your happiness, your abundance, your generosity, and your appreciation for life, all of which will return and affect you beneficially on all levels – mental, emotional and physical. A smile will take you the extra mile.
Smiling takes no time, literally, and it is a universal currency known in every culture around the globe. Wherever you travel in the world, a smile is the currency that buys you just about anything you want and it definitely buys you things you need. No matter where you travel, a smile means the same thing and it creates the same thing – love, sharing and communication.
Smiling has proliferated globally as the “Universal language.” No matter what village or town or city you go to, a smile means the same thing regardless of your age, culture, ethnicity, financial status, faith, or nationality.
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, further explains that “…smiling is an invitation to transcend racial and cultural barriers. The smile is an open invitation to not judge an individual by their culture, but to be open to receiving from them this transcendently positive emotional expression.” We can defuse global antagonisms and misinterpretations and create an optimum “win-win” situation wherein the smile giver and those receiving the blessing of the smile both experience a state of wellness and joy, as well as an open door to extended dialogue. Fredrickson states that the openness generated through smiling “…can be used in peace negotiations, where an authentic smile breeds an environment of receptiveness and willingness to learn, rather than insisting on negotiating from a position of power, without regard to the information being shared by the other side.” Despite linguistic and nationalistic differences, the smile gets through. It speaks to the heart rather than the mind. An authentic smile is the quickest way to an agreement, mediation, or conflict resolution. A frown says no, a smile says, “Yes, of course!”
Have a reason?
Research disproves the old belief that one has to have a reason to smile first. We always assume because of our social and emotional conditioning that we smile because we are happy, and we cry because we are sad, and we frown because we are angry.
According to the 20th century psychologist Dr. William James, it would be more rational to say that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike out at others, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be.
We can create our own reason to smile by smiling first, a preemptive smile. The smile is a learned response.
Yes, you can literally make yourself happy by smiling!
The more you do it, the more it becomes natural.
The more you do it, the better you feel and the more reasons you have to feel good and to smile. If smiling doesn’t feel right, just stand in front of the mirror and try out what looks like a smile.
You don’t have to be an actor to get into the mood. Just remember that even a forced smile will make you feel good by releasing endorphins and other feel-good biochemicals. The more you do it, the better you will get at it, whether you feel like smiling or not.
When you don’t feel like it
One of the best times to smile is when you really don’t feel like it because doing it will make you feel better. Smiling will give you the natural painkillers to make it through any challenge you are facing, be it mental, emotional, or physical.
At times, you may think it is inappropriate to smile because the challenges in the world are too serious, or a critical situation demands a serious face. When you feel committed to transcending suffering, remember this: nothing helps pain better than a smile.
A smile is always appropriate; there’s never a time when a smile is tactless or improper. You might ask, “What about a funeral, a death, an accident?” You can always put forth a gentle, benevolent smile of acceptance, an acknowledgement that something is working behind the scenes, a divine order, an acceptance of the soul that has passed on.
A smile can communicate that an accident can be healed.
Gertrude Stein said that a smile is a smile is a smile. If you observe people in conversations, you are likely to discover that it is not the exchange of knowledge and information that is important, but the expression and communication of emotions and feelings.
Something so simple, so inexpensive as a smile, with such profound and health-giving and peace-bestowing effects, should be taught in schools. It comes from the heart, so there are no misinterpretations. Innately, we know that we are all in this world together and by smiling, we can unleash powerful forces from within.
Smile and feel its power to transform every moment of your life.