Do you want to be happy more? You can be happier in two seconds, or less. You can, right now. But, you need to do something, something very simple, very easy.
Here it is.
Maybe, even as you read that word, smile, you smiled! And, maybe you even noticed at that moment you smiled, you felt a bit better; maybe you even acknowledged that you can be happy; a little bit of happiness was there.
So, smile. Often. Smiling is something you can do, consciously, purposefully, and it has an impact on how you feel. For example, scientific studies have shown that smiling can reduce heart rate. Smiling can be one effective antidote to stress. Try it out yourself. When you are in a stressful situation, put on a smile, consciously, purposefully, and feel the difference. The phrase ‘grin and bear it’ may have some validity. Grinning may actually help you bear it better.
Did you know that on average, women smile more than men and that the English smile less than many other groups because of their ideas about the virtues of the “stiff upper lip” and not appearing emotional. Generally speaking, children smile about 400 times a day, adults 40-50 times a day, but more commonly, only 20 times a day. Paul Ekman, one of the leading authorities on facial expression and emotion, in an October 2014 article in Psychology Today, outlines 10 different types of smiles. And you thought there was just one! Take a look at people smiling, see if you can notice different types of smiles. There is the ‘felt’ smile, which is a genuine, spontaneous expression of happiness. There is the ‘dampened’ smile which is when a person tries to suppress a big grin. There is the ‘compliance’ smile in which we show a person that we are in agreement, even though we may have preferred another option. There is the ‘listener response’ smile, which says I hear you, continue.
The simple act of smiling produces a lot of positive brain chemistry. When a person smiles, regardless of which type of smile, the brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are often referred to as ‘happy chemicals’ produced naturally in the brain. These happy chemicals then lead to more smiling, which produce more happy chemicals, which leads towards more smiling. It doesn’t matter if you ‘fake’ a smile. The muscle movements involved in smiling are the same, and the happy chemicals start to flow. Just as you can imagine drinking a glass of lemonade and begin to salivate, so you can pretend to smile, and generate happy chemicals, which will then further support smiling.
Of course, we know this, instinctively. We like to smile, it makes us feel good; and, it makes those around us feel good. Smiling can be rather contagious. Several years ago, Ron Gutman, the CEO of Healthtap, a company that provides mobile health information apps, gave a TED talk on The Hidden Power of Smiling in which he touches on the importance, and power, of smiling. It is nice to know that there is evidence to support what we instinctively know, and can do, to feel better, to be happy, immediately. It may well be that happy people smile more; and, it may well be that if we smile more, we will be happier. So, be happy more this new year. SMILE more!