What can smiling do for you?
Simply put, smiling alone has revolutionized my daily interactions. Long gone are the days of continuous headaches caused by jaw clenching and gritting through experiences. I remember watching an episode of “The Office”, in which a character known as Dwight Schrute says this about smiling, “I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a sign of submission in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.” Extreme as it seems, take a moment to look around, how many smiles do you see? Are you smiling? Why do many of us not smile more frequently, or at all?
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen teacher, is known for his deep unshakable peace. Having written over 70 books in his time, Hanh believes that peace can and should be embodied every second of the day. Any activity, from cleaning dishes to driving, to involving oneself in a community, should be done through peace and with a smile. Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say, “Smiling demonstrates awareness and determination to live in peace and joy.” Why is it then, that many do not participate in this simple exercise more often?
To some extent I believe that smiling has become uncomfortable. It is no different than embodying our natural emotional states of joy, love, happiness, and peace - in today’s world, my emotions are at times uncomfortable to experience and are difficult to maintain due to prior patterning.
I decided to call upon a few people in my life and ask their thoughts on smiling. An 11 year old by the name of Everett says, “Smiling makes me happy and shows that I am as well.” For an 11 year old, I thought this to be great awareness. Conscious Transformation often discusses “intention vs actual experience”, meaning, we often have an intent to do, feel, or act a certain way, but the action we take is dictated by the emotional state we are experiencing (whether we are conscious of it or not). As Everett smiles, it provides him with the opportunity to recognize his emotional state as happiness, bringing awareness to the fact, “I am happy”. The flip side, we can discuss the benefits of smiling while in a fear based state. Smiling activates certain muscles of the face, and in doing so, releases endorphins and two chemicals known as serotonin and dopamine. Both of which play an enormous role in our mood. In addition, when endorphins are released, our body immediately begins reducing cortisol production, which is an adaptive stress hormone. Smiling provides us with a tool that can be utilized in any circumstance. It allows for a quick emotional and physical transition so that our bodies do not have to undergo extended periods of energy depriving states (fear, anxiety, depression, etc.). Quintessential to remember is that activating any love based state triggers the frontal lobe to turn on, sparking creative and critical thinking immediately, and all the while calming the amygdala. What I’m trying to say is, just smile!
Fortunately for me, I know a 3rd-grade public school teacher, who literally maintains the most infectious smile I’ve ever encountered. It is my belief that because of this constant radiant energy through smiling, she has a certain magnetism about her, always attracting and influencing lives. Emily states, “A smile lets students know that they are welcomed, cared for, and loved. Hey, I see you. It’s okay to be who you are. You can do this. Go ahead and try. I am here with you”.
Through my lens, one thing becomes quite apparent. Smiling will light you up as well as anyone sharing space with you. We are influencing other people, places, and things, whether we’re aware of it or not. Why not do it with a smile? It may end up changing your entire experience of life!
As Mike Lenox once said to me during a time in which I wasn’t recognizing myself smiling more, “You got some white shit on your face.” 😁