Activity: Practice Smiling
Simple, right? Maybe not consciously. Think about how often you smile at strangers. Do you smile at coworkers passing by at work? Do you smile at people on the sidewalk when you’re outside? Do you smile when someone holds the door open for you? If you answered “no” to these questions, then ask yourself “why not?” Many times we are so caught up in our own trains of thought (or overthinking) that we aren’t even conscious or fully aware how our facial expressions come across. I’ll use the term “resting bitch face” here since people are using it now-a-days. All too often we walk around with this expression instead of connecting with other people in the most simple way: smiling. Not only will it make other people feel better, but it will make you feel better too.
Scientific Benefits Behind Smiling
According to a study done at the University of Kansas, smiling reduces the body’s response to stress, lowers your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and even increases your life expectancy! It also reduces risk for chronic disease and improves your immune system to prevent you from getting sick. Even forcing a fake smile produces these outcomes as well – so fake it ’till you make it! What is found across the board is that our body mimics our facial expressions, not the other way around. Therefore, when we smile, our bodies and brains literally feel happier. We just have to trick ourselves in the right way.
Smiling Produces Better Relationships
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian developed a ‘likability theory’ in which he found that 50% of our body language contributes to how much other people ‘like’ us or find us kind/easy to approach. Makes sense, no? No matter what language you speak, everyone knows that smiling is a kind and genuine gesture of friendliness. Why not make things better for each other and smile a little more often? What if everyone took this advice? How much greater of a world it would be. Whenever I start up a group at the hospital, I always make sure I enter the room with a smiling face. I have found that 99% of the time, just by smiling, patients are more willing to engage in the activity and I am able to build a better rapport with them. Same goes for working in an office. When I enter the room in the morning, I am trying to be more conscious of entering with a positive attitude, smiling, and saying “good morning.” After all, we spend more time with our co-workers than our families and friends, so why not make it an enjoyable space for everyone? Even remembering to smile to your loved one when you get home will bring you closer together in the simplest way.
Smiling is Contagious
It is the universal language of kindness. Researchers have been studying the power of smiling since the 1980’s. If the act of smiling makes you feel better, imagine what it does to the people you are surrounded by! Ever listen to someone else laughing and you can’t help but laugh yourself – even though you have no idea what they are laughing about? Same goes for smiling. According to Trends in Cognitive Sciences, we smile when others smile because our natural instinct is to try to connect to how other people are feeling and understand their emotions. When you see an expression on someone else’s face, you attempt to understand it and interpret it by mimicking it on your own face. If you notice your friend group is mostly negative, frowning, or dumping their problems on you, you may want to try surrounding yourself with more upbeat people – but first, try being that smiling person for them! More than likely, they will be able to turn their moods around or at the very least, smile back.
What are your experiences with smiling at a stranger? Did they smile back? How did it make you feel? Were you able to make someone smile once who was previously sad?
“People will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“If you don’t have a smile, I’ll give you one of mine.”
“Life is like a mirror – smile at it and it will smile back at you.”
“You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”