We see children laughing and smiling all the time. However, we usually forget that we were also like that at some time. As children, we seemed joyful and smiled for no good reason. If we compare this past with how we are now, the present would certainly not look like an improvement.
From an unconscious reaction to a conscious response
We smile a lot less. And people have this incredible ability to create stress and worry for just about everything. It is as if we strive to reverse our young mouth’s natural “U” shape into a straight or depressed face.
One can do many things to bring back this seemingly lost joy. After all, we can use everything for our growth. This whole blog is about it. But a straightforward technique we can use is to simply smile.
It is true that smiling, for many people, is more like a reaction to an external stimulus, for example, a joke. However, this does not need to be the only time to smile. We can instead turn smiling into a conscious response. That means smiling when you want to smile.
Smiling as a way to feel better
Smiling is indeed a consequence of our inner state, like when we are joyful. But one can also use the “consequence” to trigger the real thing. In other words, one can smile and may feel happy. That can sound silly, but you can try it. You can smile now if you want. Keep the smile for a few seconds and see how it feels.
There is this association in our minds between joy and smiling. The former usually triggers the latter, but it can also be the other way. On a science note, smiling produces a chemical called endorphin which has a tranquilizing effect on the body and can create “spontaneous happiness,” as it is named. (Source: Allan & Barbara Pease, The definite book of body language, chapter 3)
When you try to smile, you do use a fake smile. Physiologically, you are just pulling the corners of your mouth towards the sides of your ears. The difference with a natural smile is that when you genuinely smile, the corners of the mouth turn more towards the eyes, and most importantly, you also pull the eyes back.
As a side note, that is a valuable trick to determine if someone’s smile is genuine or not. Just look at those wrinkle lines beside the eyes, which means that they pull their eyes back. However, even when the smile is not genuine, it can still work and improve your mood.
Reasons to smile
There is no need to believe that smiling can make you happier, whether it is a natural or a forced smile. You can try to smile and see if it works for you. Smiling is not a service to anyone; it is sensible and pleasant to be smiling, let alone all the health benefits.
If you, however, want a reason to smile, I can name quite a few, and I am sure there are a lot more. It is important to note that you do not need any reason to smile; you can smile just because you are alive. But still, there are plenty of reasons one can think.
You can smile because you have food to eat. Because you have clothes. A home to stay. Do you think everyone has these? You can smile because you have a phone or device to read this blog or connect remotely with people you love. What a privilege that is! We may take it for granted, but just 40 years ago, this was unthinkable.
I am sure you can find as many reasons you want to smile. It can be family, school, work, relationships, anything. Finding a reason to smile is not difficult. The challenging part is to practice smiling consistently. That is to remind yourself to smile.
Changing the context of life
Just this simple technique can bring some welcoming changes into your life. After all, life does not change because you alter the content of life; it is the context of your life that matters the most. For example, how you go on with your day, how you feel, and even how you wake up.
You can try this as well. When you wake up, you can give yourself a big smile. It does not need to be towards anyone. Just smile for yourself. About 160,000 people die every day (Source: World Statistics), and you were not one of those. Neither was any friend or family member. You woke up, and you are alive. That is plenty enough reason to smile.
This technique of reminding ourselves to smile can be one way to move from pursuing happiness towards expressing it. It is a straightforward method to help us realize that joy is our original nature or, in other words, that the source of joy is within us. After all, when we were children, we were simply happy. We can choose to bring this back.
- Remind yourself to smile; even when waking up
- Smiling is not a service to anyone; it is sensible and pleasant to be smiling
- Try to turn smiling from an unconscious reaction to a conscious response