Did you know there are 43 muscles in our face, some of which we use when we smile?
Our smile conveys our mood and our disposition. It also relates to others our general attitude about life. Whether we view the glass as half-full or half-empty can often be seen in the way we engage the world, especially through the smile we extend to others.
Positive psychology researcher, Martin Seligman, Ph.D, is the author of “Authentic Happiness.” He reports that of the two smiles, the Duchenne and the Pan American, only the Duchenne is genuine and sincere. Named for the man who discovered the muscles that create this smile, we know it as the smile in which the corners of our mouth turn up and the skin around our eyes creates crow’s feet. The Pan American smile, by contrast, is named after the flight attendant’s whose smile was sometimes inauthentic and insincere. This smile held none of the features of the Duchenne smile, which relates an honest and heartfelt sense of well-being.
Have you ever been walking in a store and had another shopper generously and without any intent, offer a congenial smile? It can lift our day and help us to remember to look on the brighter side of life, if only for that moment.
Taking the opportunity to smile at the waitress and ask about her day as she takes your order will offer happiness to her day, and to yours as well. The old adage of, “The way you throw the ball out is the way it will come back to you,” is so true.
How do we choose to engage the world? I know that when I am teaching, I can become so busy that I realize during the last hour of the day that I have not smiled one time since I awakened in the morning. I may wonder why it was that I felt so lackluster and tired, and it may be directly related to whether I chose to be fully part of the world that day or not.
What will it cost us today to smile at someone and wish them well? Happy people are often the optimists who spread good cheer and contentedness as they move throughout the events of their day. It’s almost as if they exude a ray of sunshine with each step. To follow after them is a joy.
We often witness such a legacy in children. The next time you have a chance to take your children or grandchildren to a park, sit on a bench and just watch the children and listen to their laughter. You will likely see a child or two who simply bring delight with their light-heartedness and the sense of fun they radiate. It makes you want to join in, even at the cost of looking ridiculous.
To participate in such good, old-fashioned, free fun seems like a luxury today. We have become so programmed and regimented that we have forgotten the simple pleasure of swinging, running at the park, playing catch with a friend or playing tag.
I stopped to chat with a neighbor friend one night last week when I was on my walk. I told her what I was writing about and she commented that smiling is so good for us, and that when she needs to feel better, she knows exactly whom to call.
We all have that special friend who can make us laugh, and we know the moment we sit with them over coffee or at a game, we will begin to feel better about life. Such a friend is a friend, indeed.
Are you that person for someone in your life? Do people look forward to being with you and taking away some of your happiness and joyfulness about life?
Take time this week to think about and do something fun and enjoyable, just for the fun of it. Really participate in life and let the people you are with know how much they mean to you.
Just as I was leaving my friend she said, “Hey, Kate, I have the title for your article. ‘Smile: No Botox needed!’” Of course, we both laughed.
This article is used with permission by the Woodbury Bulletin.