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“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
You’re walking down the street, going about your business.
Maybe you’re staring at your phone as you walk. Or you’ve got your earbuds cranked up as your favorite song plays. Or maybe you’re just in your own head as you try to keep track of your remaining to-dos for the day.
But somehow something is off. You feel so disconnected from humanity even though you’re surrounded by people.
Then it happens.
A passerby looks at you and smile, warmly and generously. You smile back. All of a sudden, your mood is lifted a little as you gain a spring in your step. You go about your day feeling more connected and engaged with yourself and others, all because of one smile.
That’s the power of a smile. It’s probably the simplest, yet most underutilized tool we have for experiencing greater happiness and well-being. It’s like being thirsty and refusing to drink a glass of water sitting right in front of you.
Because most of us believe that we need a reason to smile. So we wait for external signs, cues, and gestures of friendship that let us know it’s safe to let our guard down.
And that makes perfect sense. Who wants to let their guard down in a potentially dangerous situation. The biggest danger of all is the feeling of rejection when someone doesn’t smile back at you.
The possibility of rejection is real, but you need not be afraid because when you choose to smile, you’ll experience the benefits of smiling more. Some studies have shown that smiling has the power to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, even lengthen one’s life.
The power of smiling broadly helps you to feel better about your life
You may be thinking, “But I just don’t feel like smiling, especially when I’m having a terrible day.”
Indeed, there’s disagreement in the scientific community on whether fake smiling can help you feel better.
The trick is not to fake smile when you don’t feel like smiling, it’s allowing yourself to smile genuinely.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do this. In his classic book, The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz writes:
“Try to feel defeated and smile big at the same time. You can’t. A big smile gives you confidence. A big smile beats fear, rolls away worry, defeats despondency.”
He goes on:
“A half-developed smile is no fully guaranteed. Smile until your teeth show. That large-size smile is fully guaranteed.”
That’s all it takes. Choosing to smile until your teeth show, even when you don’t feel like it. The reason why most of us don’t benefit from smiling is because we’re simply unwilling to try. Also, in some communities or cultures, a person who smiles broadly for no good reason may be viewed as suspicious or even less intelligent.
The good news is that you can try this experiment in the privacy of your own bathroom. Regardless of how you feel, go to the bathroom, close the door, look into the mirror, and produce the broadest smile you can muster. How do you feel? You will likely instantly feel better.
If you’re really struggling to make yourself smile, try thinking of something or someone you’re grateful for. As feelings of gratitude come, simply relax and allow yourself to smile as broadly as you can.
Smiling can change your life
Smiling broadly is like breathing deeply. Just like most of us shallow breathe, most of us don’t smile broadly enough. Doing both at the same time will supercharge your day.
And if you do it over time, it can change your life. As you learn to smile and feel more connected with yourself, you’ll naturally want to extend it to others. You’ll be the one smiling at random strangers as they walk by you. Sure, some will ignore you, but most people will smile back.
You’ll start to feel less controlled by life and more embraced by it. Because you’ll experience the truth of the popular phrase “Smile and the whole world smiles with you.”