Smiling is infectious too

I can’t believe I missed World Smile Day last Friday.  Being such a smiley person, I don’t often need an excuse, but as we’re all having such a testing year I thought it would be good to extend the smiles for a few more days and see how many people we can infect with our positivity.

Smiling and laughter is so important to us all, yet it’s something we tend to do much less as we grow older.  Did you know the following facts:

  1. It can impact on our overall wellbeing.  When we smile, our muscles send a message to our brain which then releases chemicals called endorphins that make us feel happy.  And that’s not all, these endorphins lower our stress levels and act as natural painkillers – three benefits in one!   No wonder they say that laughter is the best medicine.  But did you know that even when you’re not feeling 100%, you can simulate a genuine smile and it will release the same chemicals in our system to help us feel more upbeat.  Hold a pencil between your teeth and it replicates the same muscle as a genuine smile!
  2. It’s infectious.  You might think a yawn is contagious, but a smile is too!  If someone smiles at you and says hello, it’s much harder to frown back.  You’re more likely to mirror the person and smile in return.  How’s that for building better relationships and creating connections?
  3. People can hear a smile.  I’m sure you’ve heard people say they can hear a smile and now that we’re spending a lot more time on the phone we should perhaps take the advice from one of the contact centres I worked with and ‘smile before you dial’.  It will change the whole feel of the call.
  4. It can put us at ease.  People are much more likely to be drawn to people who smile as they come over as encouraging and helpful.  I know that whenever I’ve felt a little anxious about doing a presentation in front of a lot of people, I’ve found that extra boost in confidence from those smile and nod as I’m talking.
  5. It makes us more attractive.  There’s a Chinese saying ‘a person without a smile must not open a shop’.  A genuine smile presents us as being positive and sociable and someone who is confident in what we do which others find attractive.
  6. It forms the simplest form of communication.  It’s the one thing that living in our diverse culture means the same.  Gestures can differ, but a smile means the same whatever language we speak – it’s the universal language of happiness.  And of course it’s one of those things that’s free and easy to give away.

I found it incredible to learn that as children we smile on average 400 times a day whereas as we age that reduces to between 40 – 50 times for happy people and 20 times for the average person.  We all need to be finding ways to smile more, not only does it boost our immune system, but research shows that people can live up to 7 years longer from smiling more frequently.

I’d love to find out what you’re going to be doing to increase the amounts of times you and those around you smile.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share this TED talk from Shawn Achor about happiness as it makes me laugh out loud and hope it will get you to too!

I know I’ve written about the benefits of smiling before but I do truly believe that even when we don’t feel like it, we can paint on a smile and it will lift our mood.  Find a pencil and get the bit between your teeth!  It’s a bit like ‘faking it until we make it’ and use your smile to change the world rather than letting the world change your smile.

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