What makes you smile?
Today I asked this simple question of the staff at Mouth Watchers. Here is what I got:
"Catching up with friends and playing with my cat! :) " -Meg
"Having good conversations, going to to eat, and seeing my dogs!!" -Jackie
"Seeing my child dancing and singing...and when I see that my Amazon order is on the way!" -Violaine
"Playing with dogs!...Notifications from the bank about deposits :) " -Violetta
"When I find a good book that makes me want to read it back to back!" -Ant
"My friends and family, concerts, and watching Boston teams win!" -Tim
In case you missed it, last week we celebrated National Smile Day...but it's ok! Take the opportunity now to take in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and allow those corners curl up into a big grin. There, doesn't that feel better?
For quite a while now researchers have studied the correlation between body language and mood. For example, come to find out there really is something to the practice of sitting up straight as a part of your values system. Your nervous system is not just an output delivery pathway from your brain to your body and out to the world. It may seem intuitive, but we receive signals from our environment at an even higher rate than what we put out. And as far as your brain is concerned, your body is part of its environment. It picks up on cues from your proprioceptive system and responds in turn. All of this is to say that if you stand up straight, you will feel more confident and less anxious. And smiling is just as much a part of your body language as the posture of your back and shoulders. When you smile, your body signals your brain to release certain neurotransmitters associated with contentment and well-being.
Don't believe me? Did you try smiling a little while ago? Try it again... Did you feel it? Keep practicing. Body language is one of those areas where 'fake it til you make it' really pertains. It's ok, no one is watching. And if they are maybe it's not such a bad thing.
Some of that research I mentioned before has shown how smiles can be contagious. We humans are a social flock. There is special circuitry in our brains, called "mirror neurons", that is designed to mimic others. Again, don't believe me? Smile at someone today and see what happens.
In the spirit of promoting smiles, I will refrain from diving too deep into this while citing the many studies regarding topic. I just ask that you take this moment to smile. That's it. And when you do, maybe you will go one step further and spread the cheer.
What I am really getting at is to show that smiling is beneficial. It helps you feel good, it helps you express that you feel good or you approve of what is going on around you. Smiling relieves stress, helps us relax, and improves our mood. In turn, that makes you more productive and creative. Perhaps most powerfully, smiling improves relationships and group cohesion. A smile shared across the room or in the hall improves trust and approachability. A genuine smile aimed at someone else is almost like a social contract. It is like saying 'I feel ok, you can feel ok and we both with be ok towards one another, ok?'
Here's some help from a few famous smiles in pop culture:
You can't even help it at this point, can you? You big cheeser! :-)
Of course, there's always the alternative:
"Not smiling makes me smile" -Kanye West