The Better Me Project—Day 5
Ugh. I, like millions of other women suffer from what’s commonly known as resting bitch face. I look unhappy or constipated 90% of the time. And yes, I know, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, but apparently my face doesn’t care. Frowning is its default setting.
The problem is, despite my face, I’m not usually a miserable and unpleasant person (my kids might beg to differ with me there, considering I’m often yelling at them and to them that’s grounds for being an unpleasant person). To smile, I’d have to make a conscious effort to do so. Is it worth it?
Well, according to studies, smiling, even a fake smile, has incredible benefits. For starters, smiling creates the illusion of joy and happiness, even when we don’t feel it. That in turn somehow tricks us into feeling happier, which tricks our brain into being happier. Smiling and laughing also releases “feel good” neurotransmitters—dopamine, endorphins, and seratonin. Seratonin is actually a component in many antidepressants…so smiling often is like a taking a daily antidepressant.
Smiling also decreases stress, lowering our blood pressure and heart rate. When we smile, we give off a more relaxed and pleasant vibe to those around us…even if we didn’t want to smile in the first place! People subconsciously smile back when you are smiling at them. Smiling people are seen in a positive light. Smiling people create a positive environment. Smiling people get positive results.
Think about it…have you ever been faced with a customer service rep who is telling you that they can’t return your product or refund your money? Imagine that person is frowning and huffing and generally being a bitch? Makes you annoyed, doesn’t it? Can you feel your blood pressure going up? Are you getting angry at this person who doesn’t even make up the rules to begin with? Okay, stop. Now imagine that person is apologizing and smiling…a much more pleasant person. You’re still annoyed you’re not getting your money back, but it’s not this person’s fault, is it? Your urge to punch them in the face is gone (or at least tamped down considerably). You might benefit by using this person’s tactic in your own life. Kill ’em with kindness…you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right? Or so they say.
Studies show that if you’re smiling more (even if you don’t feel happier), others will still associate you to a happier (and for some reason, kinder) and more trustworthy person. They’re more likely to think fondly of you, and it never hurts for people to think that you’re a nice person, does it? You’ll appear more approachable and maybe, just maybe smiling will actually start to come more naturally to you. Studies even show that people who have had Botox are actually happier (and not just because they’re wrinkle free—it’s because they’re smiling…all the time). Children smile on an average of 400 times a day—adults, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 times a day! What happens to us between ages 4 and 40??? Are we that unhappy and cynical that we can’t eek out a few more smiles than that? I doubt that highly. I think we just don’t take the time for it because we don’t think it’s important enough. Well guess what? It is important! Probably one of the easiest things we can do to make ourselves happier and healthier. Can’t we make it a point to laugh every day, smile way more than 20 times a day?
It can’t hurt to try—so smiling starts today. I’m going to smile even if it hurts. I’m going to smile at friends and co-workers and neighbors I never talk to. Hell, to reduce my blood pressure, I’m going to smile at strangers and people I don’t even like. I can use some positive energy in my life. And maybe…I’ll end up with less wrinkles as a result.
“Study—Forcing a Smile Genuinely Reduces Stress” The Atlantic.com (7/31/12)
“The Power of a Smile” Social Psych Online (5/2/17)
“There’s Magic in Your Smile” Psychology Today (6/25/12)
“How Smiling Changes Your Brain” Fast Company (1/18/15)