Yoko Ono does not seem to be a smiling person. Perhaps because of her personal history or because she does so shyly, when thinking of her it’s hard to imagine her smiling. Yet she said a beautiful thing about the power of smiling:
“Look in the mirror and smile.
Do this every morning and you will start to
See how your life changes.”
The second part of her advice seems to me the most interesting. She’s not saying “Smile because it’s better for your social relationships” or “Smile because it’s rude to be sulky all the time.” She says, “You will begin to see how your life changes.” In short, the power of a smile is to change things, and thus your life.
Does a simple smile really have that strength? Yes indeed.
The science (of smiling)
Explaining why smiling does much more than facilitate social relationships is science itself. Smiling activates a number of brain and mental processes that induce a more positive, relaxed and optimistic state. It is such a powerful method that it works even when there is not much reason to smile, yet being able to do so magically activates the mind to change its attitude and be more well disposed. It is a kind of deception for good: sometimes there are no reasons or conditions for laughing but doing so “tricks” the brain and predisposes it better. After all, smiling is sending a definite signal to the brain, namely, “It’s okay.”
It has been known to work very well in running as well, as demonstrated by Eliud Kipchoge who, not surprisingly (or perhaps because of his natural predisposition) does so throughout his epic races, even when the effort is maximum and his mind is probably just telling him, “No, there’s really nothing to laugh about.”
And not only
The benefits of smiling are not limited to sports. Studies show that smiling during many stressful situations relieves tension. Think about what you spontaneously did when during a test you didn’t know the answer: you smiled. In an embarrassed way, but it was an automatic mode to show that you were participating and feeling sorry, not wanting to seem hostile at the same time.
And the situations in which it is important to relieve tension are many. For example, even during a shot or blood draw, smiling allows you to lower your stress level, especially if these are situations that make you uncomfortable.
Those described are almost unconscious reactions to a stressful state, but even laughing consciously in an uncomfortable situation– works! Simply smiling slows the heart rate and helps to contain stress. Once again: is there nothing to laugh about? Maybe it’s just time to laugh :)
Finally, there are other situations in which it is better to laugh, and science also explains why: it makes you seem friendlier, and thus lowers the level of hostility or facilitates social relationships, and in the work environment, finally, smiling people are more appreciated and considered more trustworthy.
What does it cost to smile in the end? 12 muscles contracting. Exactly: to smile we have to put this number of facial muscles into motion. Sulking, on the other hand, requires 6 times as many. So: if you want to consume more calories sulk, but if you want to feel better there is no discussion: you have to laugh, even if you don’t feel like it. Because then you will be better off.