Home » Mary's Musings » Effect of a smile

Effect of a smile


I just read this post on the blog “The Happiness Project” and thought it was really good.  It reminded me of why I wanted to write the post A Simple Gesture.  Enjoy.

Need a reason to smile as you walk down the street or drive alone in your car?

MonalisaAs part of my resolution to “Lighten up,” I’ve been trying to remember to smile in odd moments.

At first I felt a bit silly as I walked along with a smile on my face, but I quickly realized that no one minds if you’re looking happy. I also try to 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 (is it only in New York City that you have to show your driver’s license in order to go into an office building?).

Facial expressions don’t merely reflect emotions, they also affect 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.

Random smiling is an example of my resolution to “Act as I want to feel”: while people suppose that feelings inspire actions, in fact, actions also inspire feelings. So 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. I’ve definitely noticed that people are much more likely to smile at me when I’m smiling.Trafficlightii_1

The biggest challenge 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. So I’ve been trying to use the sight of a traffic light as a prompt.

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3 thoughts on “Effect of a smile

  1. General comment about your blog… Still loving it.

    I am on a trip to San Francisco and using a different keyboard.

    But, I am following your posts as I get the chance and plan to make more specific comments when i get back to my own computer.

    For now, let me just say, I think you are cool.

  2. Even mechanically smiling helps? I’m shocked by that, but the other part is definitely true in my own life — that when I smile during my run to others, they return the jesture even if they seemed to have no intention at all… so I’m going to try and think happier and BE happier (hopefully). I agree with Rog..you are cool!

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