(Original Post Date: November 9, 2010)
When was the last time you smiled? Yesterday? Two weeks ago? Five minutes ago? Did you smile because you were happy, or were you so happy that you smiled?
The power of a smile is amazing. In the dental field, we are trained to look at, analyze and improve smiles every day. But it’s more than that. We know how important a smile can be from a “health” point of view, but often it’s more important from a “soul” point of view.
Here is an excerpt from Gretchen Rubin’s best-seller book, The Happiness Project, in which she talks about her resolution to smile more:
Happiness resolution: Smile.
I’m not a very smile-y person, and lately I’ve noticed that when I do smile, my face sometimes feels like I haven’t smiled in a loooong time.
I’ve been trying to remember to smile more, even just walking down the street. At first I felt a bit silly, but I quickly realized that no one minds if you’re looking happy. I also try to give a real smile whenever I interact with someone — buying a cup of coffee, checking in at the gym, going through security before going up to an office (is it only in New York City that you have to show your driver’s license in order to go into an office building?). I find it draining to make polite small talk with strangers, but I can give a real smile.
Facial expressions don’t merely reflect emotions, they also influence emotions. In “facial feedback,” studies show, the mere act of smiling makes people happier — even when they smile mechanically, as I’m doing, or when they’re asked not to “smile” but rather to contract specific facial muscles.
Random smiling is an example of my resolution to Act the way I want to feel: while people suppose that feelings inspire actions, in fact, actions also inspire feelings. So by acting happier, I should feel happier. And you know, I think I do. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Also, because of emotional contagion, people often mimic the faces of people they see. One reasons that people are attracted to happy people is that they “catch” that happiness, themselves.
The biggest challenge for smiling is to remember to do it. I’m reminded of my various efforts to improve my posture. I’m good for a little while, then get distracted and don’t think about it for the rest of the day. One strategy: smile whenever I see a traffic light.
One note about smiling, I get the impression that some Tiggers make a habit of telling people “Smile!” — and that many Eeyores find this habit intrusive and deeply annoying. So it appears more effective to let others “catch” your smile rather than telling them to smile. “But they’d be happier if they’d smile!” you may protest. Maybe, but the Eeyores report that being told to smile doesn’t make them feel like smiling. Just the opposite.
Are you ready to boost your happiness by smiling?