By Revival Ojedapo.
Smiling is the golden expression!
Encouraged by therapists and psychologists, it would appear that smiling is medicine for a million ills. But how much does smiling impact your well-being?
You’ve probably heard a lot about it. Smiling can lengthen your lifespan; it takes more muscle to frown than it takes to smile; you can have a positive influence on others if you smile more, etc. There’s a saying that “smiling is contagious”; and that’s true, isn’t it? Even if you’ve had a bad day, a cheerful smile from someone can make you smile as well. And if someone close to you flashes a radiant smile at you, you’ll surely feel the warmth in your heart.
In fact, several tests are carried out, having a person go about, smiling at strangers. The result is that most people smile back, even when they’re complete strangers. While it is not very practical going about and smiling randomly at strangers, we can always keep a smile at the edge of our mouths. According to Les Brown, “your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.”
Studies have shown how the orbitofrontal cortex and cingulate cortex (which have control over sensory rewards, emotions, memory and facial expressions) bring about the mimicking of emotional expressions; so that you find yourself smiling (even unconsciously) when another person smiles at you. Also consider the fact that smiling makes an excellent customer service.
Businesses thrive on it. When you walk into a popular store, you’re greeted with smiling faces and you most probably would reply with a smile of yours.
But, what exactly does smiling do to your body, or your mood? And is it worth the conscious effort it will take to make it a habit?
While it is easy to see the impact of your smile on others, it is not immediately evident what effect smiling can have on you as a person. They say “life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you (Peace Pilgrim)”.
Life is not always smooth, though, and the rough rides can boot out your humour.
Imagine, it’s another Monday, your job isn’t particularly enjoyable, and you’ve got nothing to be excited about. The day ends, your wife and children are equally stressed out, and no one has anything to alleviate the mood. How do you smile at life when your life is like this, day after day? Won’t you rather go about with a look of indifference, if not a frown?
Well, no. All you need do is simply smile. This is because, when you smile, you actually feel better. Various research have found that smiling helps release certain feel-good hormones that can alleviate your mood. These include serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. Some people do actually take to drugs to boost the release of these hormones, risking various side effects. But, you can get this same feeling by smiling more often (even if you have to fake it), without risking any side effects. On the plus side, you also maintain your good looks when you smile.
I can imagine your stress and anxiety and foul mood whispering into your head, telling you that you’ve got nothing to smile about. “Why smile when you’ve had a bad day? Why smile when no one is watching? Why smile at all?”
Well, you just smile, and silence that voice. It is worth it. In fact, you can fake it till you make it.
Previously, my teeth would be set on edge as I carry about my day, finding no reason to smile. I never mean to frown, but I could see how people will find me disagreeable; hostile even. Your facial expression is your first message to the people you meet. And, unless you’re purposely set on pushing people away, it’s appropriate to smile more often.
Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that the real importance of smiling is no more for the other person than it is for me, the smiler. My mood is better when I smile, and I’m able to flush out the toxic mood I didn’t even know about me. Sometimes, it takes real conscious effort to smile, and I catch my teeth biting at themselves again every now and then. Still, the rewards are worth it, so I don’t give up on making an habit of smiling. Meditation can be helpful also, as you get to loosen up and discover the parts of your body that are excessively strained.
Just remember to smile every day. Consider this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”.