Friday, December 9, 2011

The Power of a Smile

 My friend and I like to play a game. Often while working away on our studies at a coffee shop, we’ll stare outside the window at passers-by and wait for their glance to meet our eyes. Just at that moment we’ll surprise them with a big smile. While they might look a little bemused, it never fails; they inevitably catch the smile disease, and smile right back at us.

The power of a smile should never be underestimated. It is the language of happiness. It really costs nothing, it extends your life expectancy and elevates your mood, which provides a wide host of positive kickbacks (such as, reduction of blood pressure and stress induced hormones). Most importantly it is seriously contagious. Now that’s something worth catching! It is an expression universally spoken and understood across various cultures. In fact, it may be the first language a baby learns.

Not surprisingly, some researchers have found smiling to be positively associated with emotional experience, memory and cognition. In the famous Nun Study, researchers Deborah Danner, David Snowdon, and Wallace Friesen, at the University of Kentucky, looked at the autobiographies written by nuns entering the convent in early adulthood. They found the nuns with positive emotional content autobiographies were strongly associated with longevity 6 decades later. Snowdon has conducted additional studies (now at the University of Minnesota) looking at the brains of nuns when they die. Remarkably, he’s found that while many were functioning normal, a significant amount of them actually had full blown Alzheimer’s disease, despite not showing any symptoms. 

There is something about a smile that makes us feel better and also those around us. Think about your day to day experiences, and how service with a smile changes your perception of your waitress, doctor, or bank clerk. Likewise, have you ever noticed that smiling also has the ability to make someone appear instantly more attractive? It has also been found to make women look 3 years younger in age. Who needs anti-aging cream or botox when all you have to do is smile?

And sure there may be times when you don’t feel like smiling, but those are the times that you should smile most. It may feel unauthentic at first, but leave that smile on your face for a solid minute and I guarantee you’ll start to feel better. You can even spice it up with some laughter, and now we’re talking about a smile that you feel through your soul!

So, go ahead start spreading something worth catching. Smile! It looks good on you!

Smiling broadly,