"Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day." ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I’ve been trying to remember to smile more, even just walking down the street. At first I felt a bit silly, but I quickly realized that no one minds if you’re looking happy. I also try to give a real smile whenever I interact with someone — buying a cup of coffee, checking in at the gym, going through security before going up to an office. I find it draining to make polite small talk with strangers, but I can give a real smile.
Facial expressions don’t merely reflect emotions, they also influence emotions. In “facial feedback,” studies show, the mere act of smiling makes people happier — even when they smile mechanically, as I’m doing, or when they’re asked not to “smile” but rather to contract specific facial muscles.
By acting happier, I should feel happier. And you know, I think I do. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Also, because of emotional contagion, people often mimic the faces of people they see. One reasons that people are attracted to happy people is that they "catch" that happiness, themselves.
The biggest challenge for smiling is to remember to do it. I’m reminded of my various efforts to improve my posture. I’m good for a little while, then get distracted and don’t think about it for the rest of the day. One strategy: smile whenever I see a traffic light.
Do you find that you can boost your happiness by smiling or through other similar measures? What works for you?