I’ve made an interesting discovery while walking to work: the power of a smile!
I make a conscious effort to smile when I’m walking. It’s easy for a minute, but after five it’s difficult to maintain. Then if you push through, you can’t help but smile from the inside out, and the response from people is interesting… most smile back.
Studies from Uppsala University in Sweden show smiling is contagious and that it’s very difficult to frown when we look at someone who smiles. It’s innate. Even strangers respond positively to a smile.We’re born with the ability to smile. It isn’t something we have to learn. 3-D ultrasound technology shows developing babies appear to smile in the womb.1
Kids smile. My little girl smiles all the time… in fact, kids smile more than 400 times a day. Then, as we get older only 30 per cent of us smile more than 30 times a day and less than 14 per cent of us smile less than five times a day.2
My little girl smiles all the time… in fact, kids smile more than 400 times a day
What happens? We become serious… oh, so serious about life. We start building our kingdoms, developing our opinions. We become ever so set in our ways.
We thump at the keyboard. Focus resolutely on a patient’s retina. Run round after the kids. Take on household chores with vengeance… fret about our tax… who has time to smile?
Are we fun to be around anymore? Do we bring life into a room, or sap the energy out of it? I’ve decided I never want to be an energy sapper… and so I smile, and I target the smilers around me – those ridiculously positive people whose cups are brimming over with life. They’re so much easier to be around than those who wallow in a half empty cup of their own minutiae.
In one of my first jobs, a trainer said, “smile when you’re on the phone because it will come across to the customer… smile and dial”. At the time, I thought he was batty. But according to one study, smiling does affect how we speak, to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone.3 And some people have “smilier” voices than others, adding to the popular belief our expressions carry a lot of informational weight and may impact others on both a conscious and subliminal level.
We need to remind ourselves to smile more. We need to decide the night before that we’re going to start the day with a smile… to smile as soon as we wake up… to smile at everyone we meet on the street… with friends, family, random strangers… customers! I promise, you will feel happier and healthier… and you’ll look good and more competent in the eyes of others too.4
Some will look past you or will think you’re mad… but most smile back.
Come on, you can’t help yourself… you’re most probably smiling right now. How good does that feel!
3. University of Portsmouth. Smile – And The World Can Hear You, Even If You Hide. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2008.