Healthful Mondays: SMILE!

© Sarah Lipoff

The other day I was in a rotten mood. Nothing seemed to be going the way I had planned and the baby wasn’t too excited about things, either. We were both pretty blah and neither of us was helping the other out in feeling much better about things. We were stuck in the car and I was stewing over events of the day. Then, along comes a zooming car – going really fast – and I assume there is going to be another bad situation to add to my day. But, instead of offering me a nasty hand gesture for driving too slow or cutting me off, the woman driving smiled and waved my way – beaming from ear to ear!

What can you do? I smiled back and shook my head in disbelief. Within a couple of minutes I found myself feeling a bit calmer and a little bit better.

Smiling is a unique thing. As babies we learn how to smile from countless hours of observing everyone smiling at us. At some point we realized that if we smiled back to all that smiling, oodles of positive attention would be showered upon us. When someone smiles at you – you smile back! No matter how old you are, what mood you are in, or what you are doing, many of us will return a smile, even to a total stranger.

When smiling, the face moves upward and seems more open. Many people show their teeth while smiling, their cheeks round, and their eyes shine. These are all characteristics that people find attractive and encourages others to feel comfortable and more accepting of you. Think about it, when you are in a public place and observing those around you, many times you are drawn to people who are smiling.

Along with helping us to look attractive, smiling releases endorphins and serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps you feel good and stabilizes mood. Just cracking a little smile alleviates stress and starts the process in the brain to change mood and behavior. When you are feeling positive, your whole body is happy. Your blood pressure goes down, your brain is active, and your stress levels balance out. I know when I am feeling depressed, watching a funny movie gets me smiling – and eventually laughing.

And, smiling is free! So give it a try before drowning your sorrows in something that costs money (like chocolate – lots of chocolate)!

The most important thing about smiling is that it is contagious. When you take the time to look someone in the eye and smile at them, they take notice of you and smile back. It is a mini-acknowledgement and acceptance of YOU! That makes everyone feel better, and then the smile gets passed on to someone else, and the chain of smiling begins! Everyone wins with a smile.

So get out there and start smiling! It will make you feel great and it might make someone’s day.