I have a question for you: have you smiled today? Think about it. When was the last time you smiled – really smiled – out of pure joy, silliness or even contentment?
It might come as a surprise, but many of us go through our days without smiling much, if at all. We are stuck in a rut of buzzing around from place to place day after day with our preconceived notions and our cookie cutter existence. Let’s take a look at a typical day:
The alarm clock rings first thing in the morning to wake you to the day. You can barely open your eyes since it feels as if you just closed them, but somehow you manage to peel them apart and head to the bathroom. You turn on the shower, get clean for the day and head downstairs for a quick breakfast before you dash off to work.
The minute you walk in the door at the office, you hit the ground running with phones ringing, meetings to attend and papers to push. A whirlwind of information and customer requests fill the air when all of a sudden you realize it’s 10am and time for a break. You head to the mini-kitchen for a snack hoping someone had a birthday celebration and left a cupcake with your name on it. You’ve accomplished a lot already in a short period of time. You head back to work, rush through lunch, set up tomorrow’s meetings and make the trek home. Once there, you deal with homework, dinner, laundry, preparation for the next day and then finally hit the sheets at 11pm.
As you can see, we are practically living an assembly line type of life. We have been taught that we must do this and we must do that in order to be valuable so we get up each day and do whatever we think it takes to meet those requirements. As we do, we’re on autopilot, missing life as it truly exists. Most of us are not involved in life, we’re ruled by it.
When we are involved in life we find joy in it more often. Difficult or challenging times aren’t so devastating or dramatic. We don’t take life so seriously and are open to seeing it from different, more pleasant points of view. All of this allows us to be lighter about ourselves and the life happening around us. With our nose off the grindstone, we see more of the beauty in life and we are more content, joyful and peaceful with what life has to offer. All of this gives us something to truly smile about.
By contrast, when we are ruled by life, we keep our head down and see only what’s directly in front of us since we haven’t the time to look left or right. With this as our modus operandi, we have an outlook on life that is anything but glorious. We tend to overreact and over-dramatize events often repeating the gory details over and over spreading negativity, anger, blame and more. This is not an outlook that promotes smiling! But, what can we do? Practically everyone is operating this way. The answer is simple: Practice smiling more. It’s free, easy and healthy!
The Science behind the Power of Smiling to Improve Health
Our bodies are highly intelligent beings in their own right. There is something called a mind-body connection that provides a strong relationship between what we think and the electro-chemical signals that are released throughout the body. The mind-body connection means that when your mind thinks something, your body responds physiologically. We can use this mind-body connection to assist us with making changes that work in our favor. For instance, when we smile messages are sent to our brains and endorphins are released lifting our mood making us feel good. Studies have shown that even if you are faking a smile, your brain will take that cue and send out the endorphins to help calm you.
Smiling also connects us to our parasympathetic system. This is the “relaxation” portion of our central nervous system. Any time we connect with this system we are in healing mode. Feeling more relaxed helps us de-stress since our breathing returns to normal and our heart rate slows. This allows us to reduce anxiety. Additionally, smiling can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and regulate blood sugar.
Finally, you probably have heard that it takes fewer facial muscles to smile than it does to frown. This is a bonus for those of us who like things that are easier in life. So, smiling isn’t all that hard, we just need to be more aware of the power of it and practice using this power more often.
Smile More Often to See More Smiles
Studies have shown that smiling is contagious. You know the old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do.” That saying applies to humans, too! In further support of this, quantum physics looks at the atomic level of existence and tells us a number of important things about what we’re made of. One finding of particular interest is that we are all connected. We affect each other. That is good news since the more we smile, the more people around us are also encouraged to smile.
Let’s look back at our day, though. The truth is, life can be viewed any way we choose to view it. If we have always looked at the journey to work as one of drudgery, it will feel that way. But, is it really drudgery? Perhaps not. Perhaps it has only felt that way because we are seeing it like that and we have a specific expectation that it will feel like drudgery. What would happen if we shifted gears and decided to allow the journey to work to be relaxing by smiling, even in rush hour traffic? Wouldn’t it become more pleasant just by that act alone? The answer is yes. Perhaps if enough of us smiled more during rush hour, the entire event would become more enjoyable for most people over time. Everything is possible.
Try this: Practice smiling more this week. Then, next week, observe the same group of people you observed this week. See how you feel and see if you can count more smiles around you. Even if you only see one more smile, it is worth it since that one smile can create another and another. Some day we could all be smiling at each other more often and we would all be healthier for it! Now that’s a nice thought.