Smiles can brighten the darkest of days. Whether it’s a shy, hesitant grin, a baby’s first smirk, or a full-on beam, there’s something so beautiful and human about turning up the corners of one’s mouth.
Studies have shown that there are many physiological and psychological benefits to smiling. Dubbed the “Duchenne smile” by psychologists, a true, genuine smile is the only indicator of real enjoyment in humans. When an unforced, real smile is provoked by feelings of happiness, certain facial muscles are utilized (the zygomatic major muscle , which raises the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscle, which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes), and there is more activity in your left anterior temporal region of the brain. (Source)
I, for one, was raised by people who taught me to acknowledge passersby with a smile. Though it only takes a moment of your time to smile at someone, it can make a difference. There have been studies linking even fake smiles with the release of endorphins in the brain; so even when you fake it, your body still reaps the benefits of smiling!
** Side note: This picture is one of my favorites ever taken of Nana and me. When I was little, Nana and I were best buds (and still are). She and I spent a lot of time together. She used to pinch my little leg, and then ask, “Ooh, did you see that big bug??” and I would laugh and laugh. On my wedding day, right as we were taking this picture, she reached behind me, pinched me, and whispered, “Big bug!” I’m not crying. YOU’RE CRYING.
But back to the blog! A friend of mine said something profound a couple of years ago about a habit of hers that she developed when interacting with people. Because it is so easy to focus on negativity or point out flaws in other people, she found herself resorting to picking these things out during her first impression of people. So what she started doing when she passed people on sidewalks, in stores, or in the hallways at work, was to immediately find something positive to think about that person. Instead of “His shirt is wrinkled,” she would try to think, “The color of his shirt compliments his eyes.” Or instead of, “She has really big feet,” she would try to think, “Those are really cute shoes.” In time, she had trained her brain to find the positive things about people.
This is something I aspire to do, especially towards other women. For some reason or other, women feel this innate instinct to compete with other women. And there’s truly no need. In my teenage and young adult years, I found (and still, I’m embarrassed to say,) find things to criticize in other women, when a) it is not my place to be critical of anyone and b) it’s nasty and exhausting. In my voyage toward more mindful living, I strive every day to lift up other women, to support them. We’re all sisters, and we need each other. It shouldn’t be a contest.
Back to the subject of smiling. Lately, I feel as if I have been going through the motions. Instead of using the Duchenne smile when I smile at others, I’ve begun to do this weird thing where I press my lips together and only slightly raise the corners of my mouth. Aside from probably looking insane, it’s disingenuous.
What the world needs now is more smiling. More positivity. More outward displays of joy. It’s easy enough to open Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat and see countless mannequin smiles posted all over the internet, but what we need is more of those crinkly-eyed, glowing grins. I think we can all do our part to spread the love by smiling like we mean it.
What makes you smile? Tell me below in the comments! You never know whose day you’ll brighten by sharing what brings you joy.