How often do you smile – really smile? If your answer is a lot, then you’re well on your way to achieving better health, happiness, and even a longer life.
Surprising as it may seem, Professor Barbara Fredrickson, says there’s growing evidence that smiles have a health-boosting effect. That’s because they reflect positive emotions which include joy, contentment and gratitude. Dr Suzy Green, agrees. She says a number of studies show genuine smiles were linked to higher personal wellbeing, or even living longer.
While increasing our health, happiness and longevity sound like good reasons to increase the number of smiles we ‘beam out’ each day, how does this actually boost health? “Positive emotions are mind and body events”, Fredrickson says. “One study found people who had more positive emotions in daily life were less likely than others to catch a cold. There is also good evidence that those with high levels of positive emotions get out of hospital faster after a cardiac event.”
From this research, it seems that positive thoughts and feelings have a measurable, favourable effect on the body. In fact, it could be said that they benefit our health. So, if you or I want to increase our wellness, how often should we smile? Professor Fredrickson says, “My research suggests that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every one negative emotion that wears us down. So we need three or more smiles to each grimace, think of it that way.”
While that may sound an easy thing to do, what happens if someone is not naturally a smiley kind of person, or if he or she believes that they have nothing in their life to smile about? Are these individuals doomed to experience poor health and unhappiness? No. This is not the case. No one has to remain smile-less.
Positive emotions can spontaneously lead to a person having a broad grin, and it’s entirely possible to increase them. This can be accomplished without the kind of effort it takes to work-out at the gym, or to make drastic improvements in one’s life-style. In fact, you’ll be glad to know, that it’s possible to attain a sunny disposition quite naturally.
Gaining a cheerful facial expression, unlike other life-changes, is simple. That’s because an appearance of delight is merely an outward expression of what a person is thinking. People smile readily, when they’re thinking happy thoughts. An unsmiling face, is often the product of unhappy thoughts. Understanding the thought-based nature of a cheerful expression, shows the need for cultivating smile-inducing thoughts. So how is this done?
There was a time in my life when a smile didn’t come as readily to my face – as it does now. Several unhappy situations had occurred causing me to experience gloomy thoughts and feelings. As a result, I found myself not smiling unless someone actually smiled at me first. Eventually though, because I am normally a happy person, I decided this was not an acceptable way for me to be.
I devised a simple action plan. Each day I would remind myself to,
● take the initiative and be the one to smile first at others. In moving around the community, for example at the check-out, coffee shop, bank and post office, make sure to smile at the person you’re speaking with.
● stop waiting for someone, or something , to make you feel happy and to prompt a smile. Happiness is a state of mind. It doesn’t depend on external factors for its existence. Balanced thinking, contentment and satisfaction, don’t exist “out there” somewhere. Happiness doesn’t have to be found and then somehow acquired. It’s within consciousness. We have it already.
● nurture only face-lighting thoughts. Dwell on constructive, optimistic, affirmative thinking, instead of constantly chewing over negative thoughts.
● Employ “extra help” that’s right at hand in the form of tried-and-true meditation and prayer practices. These methods, according to doctors, have been found thought-strengthening, and studies have corroborated their mental and physical health benefits.
This plan of mine was successful. It “put a smile back on my dial”. It was simple, comforting, and didn’t require a large dose of positive thought-power to implement it. Since then, I’ve noticed that taking a moment to smile whenever some blue kind of thinking comes along, gives a spark of happiness – and that’s got to be good for one’s mental health.
This article also appeared on The Wellness Wire - an Internet daily inspired to help forward lifestyles of health, happiness, and longevity, and a peaceful, just, sustainable world