“Light up your face with gladness.” One of my earliest and fondest memories is of my mother tucking me into bed and singing to me. Although decades ago, I remember there were two songs she would often sing; “You are my Sunshine” and “Smile.”
As I write this, I am smiling from ear to ear and I feel the joy of a beautiful memory flooding over me. I recall the lyrics that said. “Light up your face with gladness.” The title “Smile” is a bit deceiving, as the song itself isn’t a happy one. It speaks of heartbreak and sadness. A Nat King Cole hit from the 1950s, “Smile” was written by the silent movie star, Charlie Chaplin. If you know anything at all about Chaplin and his work, you will understand how appropriate the song is. It is a haunting piece with a soothing melody and a message wrought with wisdom and sage advice. If you are unfamiliar with the song. You can listen to it on numerous online venues.
“Smile … it makes your face feel better” is a phrase I have heard all my life. Little did I know that it is based firmly in science. Psychology Today says that “each time you smile, you throw a feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.” The article by Ronald E Riggio, Ph.D., continues, “For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work towards fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.”
When I began selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door to pay my way through college, I learned quickly that when I rang the doorbell, most people were not happy to see me. In the beginning, I was yelled at, threatened and even pushed off porches as I tried to peddle my wares, then I learned that a big smile was the most disarming act at my disposal. There was magic in a smile.
When an angry prospect came to the door and I met them with eye contact and a wide, toothy grin, it was difficult for them not to smile back — and when they did, attitudes were changed, and hearts opened to my intrusion into their day. If you meet anger and frustration with eye contact and a smile, it changes the mood and relaxes the situation. In short, smiling helps you be happier and healthier, while creating better relationships with others. It is true: Smiling can transform you and the world around you.
How often do you smile? For the purposes of this column, I am going to put smiles into two basic categories.
1. A reactive smile, which means your smile is a reflex action caused by a person or circumstance.
2. A proactive smile, meaning you decided to smile to obtain a result or change a circumstance.
I believe most people find smiling only as a reaction to an outside event rather than a choice. If so, circumstances are really in control of our mood, health and success. When you learn to use your smile by choice to improve or change a circumstance, you are harnessing your smile as a tool and have taken greater control of your personal mood, health and success.
I dare you to become a proactive smiler and smile by choice. Write post-it notes that say “Smile!" and place them on the dashboard of your car, computer screen and anywhere you will notice. Smile at those around you for no reason. Smile at others while sitting at a traffic light or standing in line. Smile at those providing service at checkout counters, restaurants and retail stores. If you smile at them, they will smile back and when they do, they’ll receive all the physical and emotional benefits named in this column. Your smile will be a gift to them. By smiling at others, you may profoundly and positively impact their day and cause them to pass your smile through them and into the lives of others!
Want to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others?
Make the decision to smile. Are you up to the challenge?