Monday Smiles – 9/23/2013
I have always found people who go around with a perpetual smile pasted on their face annoying. I find it disingenuous, or, if you’d like a nickel word instead of a five dollar one, phony. I even have a nickname for such people. I call them Grinners. I’m usually inclined to think that Grinners are out to sell me something … their brand of spirituality, their brand of insurance or just the notion that they are happier than I am. But that’s more about me than them. The truth is that I can’t force a smile. Well, I can but when I do, I look goofy, not happy. But since I’ve never wanted to be a Grinner, it didn’t bother me.
Now, an article in the Wall Street Journal titled Stress-Busting Smiles suggests that the Grinners may be onto something. Everyone knows that happiness makes us smile … perhaps not that smiling may make us happier. There is evidence that the muscle movements used in the act of smiling trigger responses in the brain that lower heart rate and stress levels. The study suggests that since smiling indicates we are not threatened, over time, the brain evolved to respond by generating certain stress-reducing hormones. OK, being happy … hence smiling … reduces stress. BFD, right? Here’s the odd part. In experiments where participants facial expressions were manipulated using chopsticks … without the participants being aware of their expressions … those with smiles showed some of the same benefits of real smiles. And while a big smile had more effect than a polite smile, both had benefits. The article also says that Studies have found that the intensity of a person’s smile can help predict life satisfaction over time and even longevity. Well, damn.
I’m lucky, I suppose. I have a zillion things to make me smile, from the still-sleeping face of my wife in the morning when I wake to the arrival of our cat, Mr. P, in my office. In the park, a bluebird or a squirrel or the passing of a familiar dog-walker gives me a smile, and in the car it’s often the song on the radio or a sunset no one else seems to notice. But it’s usually a happy little grin, not a big smile. Maybe it’s time for a change, to push it a little. It’s Monday. I’m headed to the park. I’ll be the guy at the picnic table by the lake with Acoustic Alchemy playing on his mp3 player. I’ll be writing in my journal, watching the bluebirds and gnatcatchers, and occasionally chatting with the squirrels or waving to another park regular. I’ll be smiling. A big goofy smile.
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