I used to have this pet peeve. It drove me a bit nuts, actually. I’d be walking along, not really thinking about anything good or bad. I assumed my face was set to neutral, when some well-meaning passerby would tell me to “Smile!” For a very long time, if that happened I would allow it to ruin my whole day. Mostly because as soon as they would command it of me, I would find myself smiling at them like some sort of trained monkey.
And then I would walk away, scowling. Don’t tell me to smile. I’ll smile when I want to smile, not when you tell me to smile.
And then I would get paranoid. Was I scowling? Did I look so wretched that a perfect stranger was compelled to tell me to change what I thought was a pleasantly neutral expression into a more socially acceptable one?
And then I would get righteous. Why should I change my expression for your amusement? I was not put on this earth to please you!!!
And then, finally, I would just get frustrated with myself for spending so much time and energy chasing around an insignificant and unimportant pet peeve.
Times have changed and I don`t let little things like that push my buttons nearly as often as they used to. Of course I am not opposed to smiling, but until recently I have not put much effort into smiling more than I`ve felt moved to.
But then I did some research. Thanks Google!
Did you know that smiling, whether you mean it or not, is an important part of maintaining good health? Even when you fake it, the physiological benefits can`t be denied. In recent studies it has been shown that:
- Smiling reduces stress. The simple act of plastering a smile on your face is enough to stop that overactive amygdala from juicing up the fight or flight response. Smiling wide so that it reaches your eyes has the effect of triggering a calming response in the autonomic nervous system.
- Smiling helps to lower blood pressure. Makes sense I suppose. If you are lowering stress, then the blood pressure is likely to follow. Many studies have shown that biorhythmic feedback and mindfulness meditation are both excellent at lowering blood pressure to more healthful levels, and now we can add smiling to that non-pharmaceutical bunch.
- Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin in the brain. You know those feel-good chemicals that bring on things like the rumored `runner`s high`? These chemicals, when released in our brains, bring us a feeling of wellness and overall happiness. Couldn`t we all use a little more of that?
- Smiling gives our immune system a boost. So during cold and flu season don`t just wash your hands and take your Vitamins… get your smile on.
- Smiling is one of the leading causes of mood improvement. Not only will it elevate your own mood, it is contagious, spreading good moodiness to those you bestow your pearly whites upon. Smile and the whole world smiles with you? True Science Fact.
So the next time somebody tells me to `Smile` I will do that very thing, thanking them for caring enough about my good health and wellness to give me such sound advice. And better still, I will make a practice of wearing the wide eyed grin as often as possible. By smiling for no good reason, those same `helpful` people might stop wondering what is making me glum and start worrying what I am up to instead.
And that really will give me reason to smile.
“I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.” Dwight Shrute