Unfortunately, there may be times that smiling can be difficult—when it might not be easy and might feel virtually impossible. Sometimes we get so caught up in the bad things that we forget that smiling is actually an option. Maybe your boss inappropriately yelled at you; maybe you had a fight with a loved one; maybe you lost a loved one … or maybe you just feel mildly depressed for the day. Whatever the case may be, there are always times when smiling just doesn’t fit your mood.
Even though you may very well have reasons not to smile, here are a few reasons to push through, focus on the positive, and yes, smile:
It makes you feel better. Don’t write this one off. Really. I know it sounds ridiculously idealistic and corny, but it is true. Next time you feel down or blue, smile. Just smile as big as you can. You might feel ridiculous forcing a huge grin when deep down all you want to do is sob your heart out, but if you do it, and you concentrate on it, you actually do feel better. Believe it or not, there is research behind this. There is a theory called “facial feedback” hypothesis. It states that “involuntary facial movements provide sufficient peripheral information to drive emotional experience,” implying that you may actually improve your mood by smiling.
It is contagious. Ever notice if you smile at someone, they smile back? If you don’t smile at someone or don’t have any real facial expression for that matter, you pretty much get a mirror image back. Smiling is a proactive behavior or action that solicits a reaction. Maybe Newton’s Law of Motion could be revised to say: to every smile there is an equal and opposite smile.
You look marvelous. If you were to see someone smiling and another person frowning, or expressionless, good chances are that you are going to find the smiling person more pleasant to look at and more attractive. Studies have shown that individuals who were asked to study posed faces found that those who were asked to smile received more favorable impressions.
A choice in aging. If you look at people who have wrinkles or facial lines, you’ll notice that most of the lines on their face follow their most natural facial expressions. If you were to choose between frown lines or smile lines as your lines and wrinkles for the future, which would you rather? I think the answer is obvious …
Muscular response. Here is a test. 1) Smile, 2) Try to maintain your smile and frown at the same time, and 3) Now try to smile and furrow your brow at the same time. Not so easy. Actually pretty impossible right? So what does this tell you? The more you smile, the less you are physically capable of frowning or furrowing your brow.
Overall outlook. The more you smile, the more positive you feel and see things. There was another research study where participants were either encouraged or prevented to smile. Those who were able to smile rated cartoons as being funnier than the group who were prevented to smile, implying that your overall outlook is more positive and happy.
Convinced yet? The reality is that smiling in itself is a holistic, natural “medicine” and anti-aging regimen. It helps us feel better, look better, and age better! So next time you are feeling like frowning, “turn that frown upside down!”
Bernstein, D. A., Clarke-Stewart, A., Penner, L. A., Roy, E. J., & Wickens, C. D. (2000). Psychology (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.