“Why aren’t you smiling?”
Jhene Aiko posed this question in one of my favorite songs of 2014. The song was inspired by a question that Jhene’s brother had always asked her during the difficult periods of her life.
It is also a question that we should be asking ourselves and the people we love.
Why are you not smiling?
We have so many things to smile about every single day.
- A blue sky
- Fresh, clean air to breathe
- Food that nourishes our bodies
- Love from our friends, families, and so many others
If we were to step back and be more mindful of these blessings, we would certainly have reasons to smile.
Yet, whether we feel we have reasons to smile or not, we must smile.
The act of smiling plays a significant role in our physical and mental health. It also creates an array of societal benefits, both personal and professional.
So, why are you not smiling?
Physical & Mental Health Benefits Of Smiling
We live in a world where stress and anxiety have become a common part of many of our lives. This stress and anxiety originates from different sources, but most of us worry about issues related to our jobs, families and friends, and our own self-imposed pressures.
These worries can affect our mental and physical health at various levels. The degree to which our health is affected is relative to the degree to which we can manage and remediate stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety causes our adrenal glands to release a rush of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare us for a “fight or flight” situation because we feel that our mental and physical security is under threat.
Though these hormones have played a biological and evolutionary role in humans, they now often arise in situations that do not require a fight or flight response.
For this reason, we need a way to neutralize these hormones from wreaking havoc on our nervous systems.
Smiling is the perfect medicine for stress and anxiety, because it causes our brain to release endorphins into our nervous system. These endorphins are pleasure hormones that neutralize the stress hormones in our body and elevate our happiness.
By reducing the stress hormones circulating in our body, we also lower our blood pressure and relax the tension on our heart.
Studies have shown that even ‘fake’ smiling – when we may not feel we have reasons to be happy – creates the same biological release of endorphins.
In particular, the “Duchenne smile” (smiling with our eyes as well as our mouths) has been found to convey the highest level of happiness, and causes the brain to release the maximum amount of pleasure hormones.
So, the next time you find yourself anxious about a situation, remember that fake smiling using the Duchenne method can significantly offset the negative energy pulsing through your body.
With all of these health benefits, why are we not smiling?
There are also many societal benefits of smiling.
First, smiling leads to laughter! Before anyone laughs, they smile (even if it’s only a micro-second smile). So, if something funny occurs, the person who was already smiling is far more likely to laugh than the person who was frowning. And we all know that laughter is great medicine for our soul and the souls of the people around us.
Second, smiling can advance our careers. Think about the people who are at the top of the ladder, or those quickly rising, at your organization. I guarantee that they wear different expressions on their face than those at the bottom of the ladder.
Those who smile convey that they enjoy what they do and that they believe in the mission of their organization. This tends to be highly valued by colleagues and supervisors. Additionally, those who smile also tend to be better reviewed by colleagues and supervisors, and receive promotions more quickly. Think about it, we all like to work with people who smile.
Third, smiling makes us more approachable.
Networking is critical for success in most of our careers. The more we smile, the easier it is to meet and engage (or network) with new people. And the more we smile during those networking meetings, the more likely it is for that person to do their best to help us in our careers.
Fourth, a smile can attract new people into our orbit; whether we are looking to meet new friends or we are single and looking for a relationship. A simple smile shared between two people is all it takes to start a conversation. And, that conversation could turn into a life-long friendship or relationship.
And lastly, smiling creates more smiles. I believe that we are all innately happy people, but the noise in our head from our life experiences cause us to lose focus of the present moment. And when we are not present, and lost in our thoughts, it’s very difficult to remember to smile.
But, when someone with a genuine smile crosses our path, we cannot help but smile back. And smiling back interrupts the stream of negative thoughts in our mind. For this reason, I make it a point to smile at as many people as I can throughout my day. And oftentimes—regardless of their mood beforehand—my smile inspires them to smile back.
If smiling benefits us and the people around us so tremendously, then why are we not smiling?
Smile In Every Moment
We cannot read these health and societal benefits, and consciously choose not to smile.
We must make a commitment to smile, regardless of our life situation.
When everything is going right, we must definitely have a smile on our face.
However, we have an even better reason to smile when things are not going the way we would like. Smiling will reduce our stress and anxiety and help us transform our own negativity and the negativity around us.
Imagine what would happen to the darkness if we all smiled and shined our light onto the world.