Your Power-Packed Smile

Interested in smiles?  Here is my June 2012 article (including some research facts) written for Sibyl Magazine.  If you are a woman and enjoy spiritual topics, you’ll love this magazine!

BIG, HAPPY SMILES ARE FREE and they are instantly understood regardless of language or culture. Receiving a big smile, complete with twinkling eyes, is a gift. My heart opens wide to all the possibilities that shine within your smile.

This quote by philosopher Emil speaks to me and is the quote that motivated me to explore the smile as a mindfulness based stress reduction activity. “Learn to smile in the sweet way of a child. A smile from the soul is spiritual relaxation.” I noticed that when I gently smiled during meditation I could feel certain muscles in my neck and face relax, and I could repeat the result each time I tried it. Via informal in-office research with clients involved in stress reduction programs, I found the act of smiling initiates the beginnings of a relaxation response for most people. In fact, the more you and I experiment with recognizing the emotional-sensory results of a smile, the more impactful our smile becomes. To my surprise, there is formal research on the smile and some universities have Smile Laboratories. The research is fascinating and invaluable. Here are some facts about your power-packed smile that you absolutely want to know.

• The size and quality of your smile is meaningful. Research shows that those with a wide happy smile are likely to have a happy marriage, and those who smile less are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce. (DuPauw University by Matthew J. Hertenstein, 2009)

• There is something known as emotional contagion: Our emotions are contagious, whether happy and fun filled or angry and depressed. We impact the world with our smile by increasing the likelihood that those around us will smile. (Hatfield, Capioppo & Rapson, 1994)

• Mimicking occurs when a person activates muscle groups that are linked to specific emotions. If you frown and look mean, your body releases adrenaline and your heart rate speeds up as though you really are feeling mean and angry. If you mimic a smile, your body releases serotonin, dopamine and other “feel good” neurotransmitters and you become more relaxed and at peace. (Ulf Dimberg, Monika Thunberg, and Kurt Elmehed Uppsala University, Sweden 2000)

• Smile intensity is related to the length of life and those with a broad, beaming smile may actually live a significantly longer life. (Ernest L. Abel and Michael L. Kruger, Wayne State University, 2010)

I have some suggestions. Smile a lot and mean it. Fill your smiles with love. “Catch” every smile that comes your way, cherish it, and then share it with the next person you see. Create an intention to make your smile a priority, doing everything you can to positively change the world – one smile at a time.