Thursday, December 09, 2010

Basics of Happiness: Smile

"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'm not a very smile-y person, and lately I've noticed that when I do smile, my face sometimes feels like I haven't smiled in such a long time.
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?


  1. i usually live life in a sleep-deprived state of delirium. but on the weekend when i'm well rested, i watch a lot of comedy and try to be as carefree as possible. i'm not sure if this is biologically accurate, but it feels like there is a release of seratonin and dopamine when i laugh..feels good

  2. ya i find laughter is the cure to a total goof

  3. a smile is essential, i agree

  4. I don't smile much either, but in the presence of good company it's hard to avoid.

  5. I think smiling has a great effect on a person's day to day personality. People may not notice you if you're just vaguely smiling but they remember the depressed!

  6. I like smiling , but I'm not a big fan of the polite chit-chatting , although I understand that it's beneficial in many cases, but that's only because people made it that way.