I wake up this morning, slam the alarm off and desperately wish I can stay in my nice, cozy bed. Another day of hectically running around children and bosses breathing down my neck with deadlines to meet. I feel stressed and the winter blues have officially kicked in. As I walk into my local pharmacy to pick up cough medicine for my sick 5 year old, the pharmacist flashes me a smile. I feel a bit uneasy as she continues to smile and even jokes with me. Suddenly I feel the need to smile back. As I walk out the door, I already feel different…more lighthearted, ready to begin my day anew. I smile at others throughout the rest of my day. Experimenting, in a way, with this new found stress reliever. As I chuckled with my coworkers and smiled at the bus driver, I noticed something strange…most everyone smiled back and it was exhilarating! It was a whole new day and I felt better than I had in months. My kids were happier and my husband and I even joked at dinner. So how can a simple smile create such a drastic change?
Looking at the effects of smiling from a physiological viewpoint, studies show that a smile can lower your heart rate, helping one to become more relaxed and less stressed. Stress leads to many various health problems and when you smile it releases hormones called endorphins that counteract stress hormones. Smiling can also help you to remain focused as ongoing stress can lead to attention problems. It can relax the body which will boost the immune response to invaders. Lastly, a smile can take years off your face.
The psychological and social effects are too numerous to list. But most importantly, smiles are contagious. When you smile at another, they want to smile back at you, creating rapport and trust. Smiling at others can not only make others want to get to know you but can help them to feel relaxed and responsive to your suggestions and thoughts. This can help in both personal and professional relationships. Smiling is used as a therapy to counteract grief and depression.
So what makes you smile? A puppy dog, a baby laughing, a great song, getting through a tough workout. Whatever you choose, do it as often as you can…and pass it on!