Smiling – It comes so easily to kids.They light up a room with their smile and connect so easily with other kids. In our fast paced “grown up” world, we’ve got phones and every electronic device commanding our attention. Far too often, we become polarized.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The next time you’re out and about, instead of looking down, look up and notice a passerby or the person sitting next to you in a waiting room. Then break through that ice with a warm smile.
Why should you smile at someone you don’t know?
So you can feel happy. Psychologists call it facial feedback. When we smile, the brain sends a signal to our facial muscle groups that says we must be happy, so we actually become happy. This happens when we have a genuine smile. You know – the kind that results in upturned corners of the mouth, raised cheeks, and lines at the edges of the eyes. Smiling also releases endorphins that can reduce stress, lift your mood, and reduce pain.
So someone can feel acknowledged. Patricia works at the visitor’s sign-in desk at a skilled nursing facility in western PA. She sees lots of people in the course of a day and makes it a point to greet everyone who passes by with a smile. “Some of the residents have no family and no one visiting them. They are lonely. Just to see them smile is all worth it,” she said with a smile.
So someone can be transformed. At Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh, hungry lunch customers were moving quickly through the line to the counter. As they came to the register, Aaron, the cashier, greeted each person with a big smile, a high five, and some encouraging words. He not only delivered outstanding customer service, he delivered happiness. I watched as one woman’s mood transformed from ho hum to happy when she reached Aaron, revealing a radiant and beautiful smile.
So someone can smile. Just like Aaron, when you smile at strangers, more than likely they’re going to smile back at you. It has to do with something scientists discovered in the brain called “mirror neurons”. Marco Iacoboni, researcher at UCLA explains, “The brain mirrors the movement it sees.” We not only respond to actions of people, but to their feelings as well. So your smile becomes their smile. Louis Armstrong didn’t have this scientific research when he sang “…keep on smiling. Cause when you’re smilin’ the whole world smiles with you.” But he knew what he was singing about.
So someone can pay it forward. Alyssa, a graduate student at Seton Hall University, put her smile into action one morning on her way to campus. “I crossed paths with a man and made the conscious choice to smile at him. I knew he wouldn’t be expecting a smile. I figured if things didn’t go well for him through him day, he could think about the fact that someone smiled at him and it would make his day better.” And if the man took that feeling with him to work and home to his family, imagine the ripple effect that could have – all because one person cared enough to smile.
When it comes right down to it, smiling at someone you don’t know is really about having love and respect for other people. And that starts in the heart. Mother Teresa said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
So smile and spread the love. You’ll make the world a happier place.