Finding Reasons To Smile Every Day
Written by: Sara Wylie
The other day while I was driving, I passed by a man who was holding up a piece of cardboard. Typically, these pieces of cardboard will have pleads for money or gas for traveling written on them.
This one, however, was different. Rather than asking specifically for what he was reaching out for, this man’s piece of cardboard held nothing but a few simple words,
“Even a smile helps.”
In the moment I was driving past him, I had nothing to give but a smile, so a smile is what I gave him. The moment came and went just like that.
But I know the effects of that moment lasted far longer.
You Can “Catch” A Smile
Smiling is a lot more than just a simple facial expression; it’s a little ray of joy that benefits both the one giving the smile and anyone who catches sight of it. Smiling is a polite social tactic, a reaction to happiness or humor, a manifestation of strength, an indicator of character, a method of comfort and so many other things. When you wear a smile, it’s hardly ever a listless gesture with nothing behind it.
Through research, smiling has proven to literally be contagious. Don’t buy it? The next time you’re out and about in the world, make a point to smile at people and see how many smiles you receive in return – you may be surprised by just how many people can’t resist smiling back, even if you can see it in their eyes that they may not want to.
The act of smiling at someone triggers a reaction from an unconscious automatic response area (known as the cingulate cortex) in the mind of the person receiving the smile. Unless a person is consciously making a point not to smile (which can still be difficult in the face of a genuine smile), the gesture coaxes the individual to respond in a like manner.
Your Smile, Your Brain And Your Body
When a smile comes to your face, a lot more goes on within you than you might realize, particularly in your brain. When you smile, little messengers known as neuropeptides are triggered – these are what make the communication between neurons and the rest of your body possible.
The neuropeptides take in the fact that a smile has come to your face and once that is understood by the neurons, the message is sent out and the corresponding hormones – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – begin to kick into gear.
Why This Hormonal Trio Makes Such A Good Team:
- Dopamine (the “feel-good” hormone) is the hormone that helps you to calm down and relax, allowing a sense of comfort and contentedness to settle in. The release of this hormone is known for lowering heart rates and even blood pressure.
- Endorphins are what get your body feeling alive and well, typically experienced after being physically active. They act as natural pain relievers in your body and are known for helping alleviate feelings of sadness and depression while also relieving stress.
- Serotonin more directly affects mood and emotions, capable of lifting a depressed heart or causing the downward swing, depending on the hormonal levels and balances in your body. When it is triggered due to a smile, it acts as a mood enhancer and lifts your spirits along with the rising expression on your face.
Together, this enthusiastic trio powerfully, yet gently impacts your body and brings on feelings of happiness and light within you, as well as outside of you. There have been studies that have even proven how smiles tend to make an individual more attractive.
When you are the one being faced with a smile, there’s a region in your mind known as your orbitofrontal cortex that is responsible for processing sensory rewards. This means that when someone smiles at you, your body actually takes it in as a form of reward, the sensation only helping you to feel all the brighter when you are driven to offer a smile in return.
The Extent Of What Smiling Can Do For You
Along with lowering heart rate and blood pressure, improving your mood, decreasing stress and easing pain, there are several other beneficial effects that can come as a result of smiling.
Here Are 6 Of Those Effects:
1. Smiling Can Increase Productivity – You know that old saying, “whistle while you work?” It’s the same concept here. It’s been proven that smiling, laughter and singing can make a person more productive. Even taking breaks to check out some silly cat memes or funny Youtube videos online when you take breaks can help you get a motivated boost to push on forward (it must be all those endorphins!).
2. Smiling Can Encourage Trust – Smiling can really be a kickstarter for building relationships. It’s a natural tendency in society to smile when wanting to have successful social relations. Whether it be family, friends or new acquaintances, a person who smiles and smiles genuinely is far more likely to attract positive attention and gain the trust of others than someone who gives a cold stare.
3. Smiling Can Produce Empathy – When you make a mistake or embarrass yourself in some way, how natural is it for you to smile and “laugh it off?” Smiling after you stumble helps break any tension you may feel around you and brings about a sense of understanding – of empathy, both in you and whoever else witnessed your fumble.
Everyone makes mistakes; we’ve all been in the spotlight of embarrassment. When you see it highlighting someone else and make a connection with that red-cheeked smile, how can you not share in that moment with him/her?
4. Smiling Can Increase Attention – When you are stressed, your body naturally begins to suppress your ability to tune into and focus on a wide range of things around you. This is because of the natural fight or flight response that gets triggered by stress; when your body feels it needs to act, it focuses in on whatever it’s reacting to (in this case, stressors).
Since smiling helps ease stress, it allows you to take a moment of relief to pull yourself back together again and widen your range of attention again. Suddenly, everything that seemed to be encroaching on you before doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.
5. Smiling Can Increase Longevity – Because smiling helps your heart, inspires a positive outlook, relieves stress and more, it has been proven that it can increase your lifespan, by approximately 7 years even, according to certain studies.
6. Smiling Can Boost Your Immune System – When you are not all worked-up and stressed, the more relaxed state of your body makes it easier for your immune system to be calm and to more effectively combat invaders. This only shows how smiling can keep you feeling well, even during the rough times.
Finding Reasons To Smile
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that smiling isn’t always in my range of willpower – in fact, I sometimes go out and flatout choose not to smile at all.
There are times in life where you get so worn down and over-taxed, that even mustering the will to smile can seem impossible. There are times when everything around you seems to be falling apart and the painful weight of it all keeps you hampered down in the depths of heartache. There are times when you find yourself alone at night struggling to quiet your restless mind and you see no reason why you should smile aimlessly into the dark.
But it is in those times, friend, those times of darkness and pain, where you need the light of your smile the most.
Finding reasons or even the willpower to smile can be hard sometimes, but it is most definitely possible. Smiling during the dark times can be very empowering to you as well as to any who may surround you. Raising a smile against all the odds of the world is a sure way to show that you are still standing and that you haven’t given up on this beautiful mess of a journey we call life.
Smiling has the power to pierce through the heart of even the heaviest of souls.
Find your reasons to smile. Look back over you day and think of all the positive things you accomplished, even if they are things as simple as the fact that you got yourself out of bed this morning. Find humor in the fumbles of the day. Look up some renowned comedians online. Find inspirational articles or videos to lift you up. Get with a friend who you know can always make you laugh. Read a book filled with characters who can bring a grin to your face without you even realizing it. Go for a walk through nature and focus on the little details that make the Earth so beautiful.
Do anything and everything that you know can break through the exhaustion and pain and lighten up the life in your radiant face.
You Gotta Keep Your Head Up
Unlike so many health tactics and habits out there that you and many others are working on incorporating into their lives, smiling isn’t necessarily something that needs practicing; it’s a natural function of human nature, as natural as raising your eyes when a bird flies by in the sky.
When you step out your door today, instead of thinking, “okay, I gotta be sure to smile today, smile at everyone!” try going out into the world with the thought, “it’s always better to look up” held securely in your mind.
If you walk the halls of your work, the streets of the city and the aisles of the bus focusing on keeping your head up (as opposed to looking down at your feet, down at your phone, down at your lap, etc.), you won’t believe the difference it can make.
If you keep your head up, you will meet the eyes of many more of the incredible people around you and find the handfuls of people who may need the warm ray of your smile today. You will catch little details within the midst of the constant flow of business that you never caught sight of before, like the bird’s nest in the tree right outside your window or the adorable children grinning from ear to ear as they play tag around their mother’s legs.
You will have the opportunity to open up, focus on and enjoy the company of your friends and family and be able to share in even more of the giggles and laughter they all inspire. You will find yourself more connected to the world around you.
And that can be one of the most incredible, releasing feelings within the spectrum of human emotion that you could ever feel.
You Have Power In Your Smile
In short, my friend, smiling is an amazing, powerful ability of humankind that you can and do wield. Not only does it do a plethora of goodness for you, but it also brings a sense of light into this wild, crazy world that never would have existed had you never stepped foot into this beautiful life.
Find your reasons to smile, keep your head up and let yourself connect with the world and the people around you – I can think of no better solution on how to keep that radiant, empowering smile of yours lighting up your face. Have a happy day, friend and always remember, we’re in this together!
Sara Wylie resides in Utah where she is currently working as an Editorial Intern for Fitlife.tv while also pursuing a career in writing. She hopes that through her words and fiery passion, she will be able to not only inspire others to seek out and nourish their own passions, but to also help others feel what it’s like to truly be alive.
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