Monday, March 16, 2015

"You'll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile." - Nat King Cole - By Liz Giammarco, PhD

Recently, a friend of mine who rarely smiles was shopping because of the soon to arrive blizzard. Although, she is a genuinely lovely person and not at all a curmudgeon or a nasty individual, she is, however, someone who multitasks her way through life and is in her head about something most of the time. Her scowling is more about worry than about a sourness of personality.
The day of her shopping trip, she was balancing marketing along with work issues. She also wasn’t feeling well because of a virus that had had her in its clutches for several days. Having been up since five that morning, she decided that she needed to eat and subsequently stopped for a hotdog at a local vendor. She related that when it was her turn, she was greeted by a cheery woman who was probably somewhere in her late 70s or early eighties, and about as tall as one of the Munchkins. Before my friend could place her order, the petite woman asked her why she was mad. This question took my friend by surprise. She answered that she wasn’t angry but had a lot on her mind. To which the woman replied that “no matter what happens in life – smile.” My friend told me that she chuckled at the remark and that most of the day thereafter, she smiled to herself about the entire incidence. 

Well then, does smiling really help elevate a person’s mood? According to the facial feed-back theory, it does. A person’s brain interprets facial expressions to be positive or negative emotions. 
Consequently, even when one is not in a good mood, mustering up a smile can fool the brain to send out positive messages and neurotransmitters that will eventually alter the negative emotion/s.
What’s even more extraordinary is that smiling is contagious. Studies have shown that when a person is upbeat and smiles, those good feelings carry on to others who are around as well. Grumpiness begets grumpiness and vice versa. As was the case with my friend, the woman’s infectious cheerfulness allowed her to smile back even though she wasn’t in a mood to do so. Nevertheless, as she walked through the parking lot and drove back to work, the smile that began as a courteous gesture ultimately became genuine. 

Upon relating the story to me, my friend stated that she was going to make a conscious effort not to frown. She felt that her unfriendly countenance might have been giving people the wrong impression of her thus keeping them away, which is something that she did not want. 

For most of us, day to day living is complex and unpredictable - not all that happens in it can be sloughed off with a smile. However, in the words of Nat King Cole, there are those times that “life is still worthwhile if you can smile”. As I write this, I am smiling at the thought of another snow storm arriving this week.

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