Happy woman with many reasons to smile

Five reasons to smile!

I had an encounter with Mr Grumpy this week. I met him at a checkout, where he was supposed to be serving me. Whilst I tried to help by being prepared, saying hello and having my payment ready to go, he avoided eye contact, threw my groceries round and didn’t even bother to speak. As we walked away, my friend dryly commented, “I could be wrong, but I think he needs a few reasons to smile.”

I get we all have bad days, but if you’re in a service role any time, you do no one any good if you can’t put on some manners. Spread positive mental health instead. A good mood’s contagious, and the world seems so much nicer when we adopt a bit of positivity.

I discovered this saying as a teenager:

If you should meet a person without a smile, give them one of yours!”

and I took it on as an immediate challenge. (Yes, I was an experimenter even back then!). I’m not sure how much of a positive influence I had, but people generally seemed to have a favourable impression of me – at least as they reported it to my mother!

Other than the obvious ‘it makes you more likeable’ (which I reckon is one of the best reasons to smile anyway!), there’s at least five other persuasive arguments coming out of the research which should convince you to put on a grin when you’re out and about:

It lowers stress

The first benefit of smiling comes to the wearer of the smile! Apparently, putting on your Duchenne – or smiling with your eyes as well as your mouth – is good for your health, going so far as to help your body relax. But even if you’re not feeling happy, faking it can have the same effect! This study from 2014 found that even a forced smile lowers stress. Next time you’re feeling stretched to the eyeballs, why don’t you test the theory out?

It’s contagious

The second of our reasons to smile is one I alluded to discovering in my youth: it’s contagious! Not only does it help you with your stress and emotional wellbeing, it’s also good for those around you. Smiling can be infectious, especially amongst those you care about.

As people, we’re social animals, conditioned to crave connection with one another. A smile signals favour, which in turn often triggers a response in the person on whom you bestow it. If in doubt, consider what happens with babies in the presence of adults. The slightest signal from a little person turns most grown ups into amateur clowns in our efforts to draw a laugh.

Others benefit by experiencing a moment of connection when you smile, especially when they know you. Interestingly, even if you don’t, those moments of acknowledging a stranger with your friendliness have also been found to contribute towards our wellbeing.

You’ll seem more trustworthy

Given your smile signals goodwill to the receiver, it’s logical that this also creates an impression of you being a good guy (or gal) in the mind of others. Beyond likeability, our trustworthy meters go up in the presence of a person who smiles at us.

Of course, when it comes to winning people over, we get sick of the politicians overdoing it. But for ordinary people, we make assumptions that ready smiles mean they’ll do good by us. If in doubt, check out this Penn Uni study for proof.

It extends your leadership boundaries

Building on from this idea of trustworthiness is the reality that for those of us in leadership of any kind, smiling will get people to follow a whole lot more quickly than pressure or bullying. In that sense, your smile will extend your influence in the areas you care about. We cooperate with people we trust, and we trust those who signal we like us. The whole leadership game just gets a heap easier when we work from the positive rather than a negative. Keep that in mind the next time you’re wanting to influence anybody to do anything!

Others will wonder what you’ve been up to

Ok, so perhaps this is one of the more fun reasons to smile I’m aware of. Walking around with a grin on your face sparks curiosity in others. You see, in a world with a good many Ms Unhappys and Mr Grumps, you wandering past looking as though life’s great is going to make them wonder ‘What’s (s)he been up to?’ And if they per chance happen to decide maybe something good’s been going down and they’ve been missing out – excellent! Let them wonder. Seeing you looking happy reminds them there are better ways of looking at – and doing – life! And since a positive mindset’s vital for anyone chasing a good life, I encourage you to embed these reasons to smile deeply into your being and keep a one on your dial this week.

Have a good one.