I was people watching again this last week. People in town are interesting. Some hurry on their way, obviously determined to accomplish their to-do list often at the expense of others around them. They have a tendency to push others, cut others off in traffic, and get impatient and frustrated easily with others.
Some go about their business but do so with a relaxed attitude. Often I see these individuals willing to let others into traffic or go ahead of them in the grocery store line. They help others. Then there are those who simply sit and appear to be in town for no real purpose, just happy to be a part of the hustle and bustle around them.
This experience got me thinking. It reminded me of some aspects of my life growing up. With my Dad in the US Air Force, I was raised in several states in the USA as well as spending a few years in a foreign country. The world is a big place with so many different people and cultures. Despite the differences of all the world’s people, it’s amazing that there are still some things that are universal no matter the distance, culture or life experience of people.
When we are sad we cry, when we are upset we frown, when we are happy we smile. Those things transcend culture and country. Smiling is an amazing thing. What is it about a smile that’s so contagious? We see someone smiling and we smile in return.
Have you ever had a person smile at you when you’re frustrated or having a bad day? Often you automatically want to smile back. Even if you don’t return the smile, that simple smile from someone else changed you. Right? Suddenly your frustrations don’t seem to be quite so bad. Somehow your day is a little brighter.
Mother Teresa talked about how smiling helps others. She said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” She also said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Here’s a little science for you. There are some important neurotransmitters in our brains that are affected by smiling. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant. It helps to regulate our sense of well-being and contentedness with life, helps us sleep better, stabilizes mood and appetite, and improves our self-esteem. Dopamine is our pleasure and reward transmitter.
It can improve our mood, energy, and concentration, and gives us feelings of happiness, confidence, joy and well-being. Endorphins boost self-esteem and your sense of well being, and they also relieve pain. Endorphin release is most often connected to physical exercise but smiling can do the same thing. Scientific studies have shown that smiling boosts all three of these neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins) in our brains.
The website holistichelp.net says, “Studies have found that a single smile can produce the same level of stimulation to neurotransmitters in the brain as 2000 chocolate bars. Chocolate makes you feel good because of its impact on serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, but unlike the chocolate, a smile comes with none of the negative side-effects of chocolate.”
Mother Teresa really was right – the power of a single smile is amazing. Smiling helps the giver and receiver. So when you’re feeling down and out find something to smile about. Remember good things in the past and smile. Think of good things yet to come and smile. Look for someone who needs a little pick-me-up and give them a smile – you’ll probably get one in return making you feel a lot better too. Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling.
You all have probably noticed my fondness for positive messages in song lyrics. So here’s another one for you. The actor Charlie Chaplin wrote a song for one of his silent films in the 1930s. The song was entitled “Smile” the lyrics go like this:
“Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by. If you smile through your fear and sorrow Smile and maybe tomorrow You’ll see the sun come shining through For you.
Light up your face with gladness;
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying.
You’ll see that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.”
So make your world brighter and in turn brighten the world of those around you. Smile.