I've never been good at hiding my feelings… I remember when I was about 13 being at a dance where the parents – including mine – were the chaperones… one of those typical teen dances, at least for my times, when the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on the other.  I was definitely not happy, hardly anyone was dancing, I loved to dance but hadn't had one invitation – and I was annoyed that my mother was right behind me, watching me be ignored… I was one sour puss! Finally Mom leaned over my shoulder and said, "you know it doesn't help for you to wear your heart on your sleeve. If you smile, you'll be up dancing in no time…" Well, as any good 13 year old would, I flounced out of the gym and found a few of my girlfriends in the hallway…As a group, we decided to approach the boys and ask them to dance, no sense waiting for them… and I put on a happy face… well sure enough, in no time the dance floor filled up, I danced for the rest of the evening. In the end we all had a good time, although I was still annoyed with Mom for the smug look she was wearing.  That was my first lesson in the importance of smiling…

I am reminded of these stories because of the chaos that has been my September, and what I have been doing to shift gears and get things set right…. the last few years have been very stressful, but this month, there was no break, one thing after another was going wrong and on top of that arthritis had my whole body aching … when I tuned into myself, I felt I was crying inside…By the time the third person asked if I was OK, I realized that my distress was written all over me… One afternoon when I was feeling particularly bad, I heard the word "Smile" come out of nowhere in my mind and I remembered what my psychologist sister had told me about smiling – it releases some endorphins in your brain that lift your spirits and make you feel better. So I smiled, and immediately felt a shift in me… since then the words to the song Smile have been haunting me, reminding me to smile….

 I was especially moved by Michael Jackson's passionate rendition, but it was Nat King Cole's voice that kept ringing through my head….
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile when your heart is breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

Here's how smiling makes life worthwhile:

First and foremost, the physical effects of smiling: smiling releases endorphins that reduce stress and anxiety. Smiling lowers your heart rate, makes you feel calm, more focused. Endorphins are the same chemicals you get from working out or running, resulting in what is known as a runner’s high. Smile more to get that high without running.

Some scientific studies suggest that smiling even makes your immune system stronger by making your body produce white blood cells to help fight illnesses

On another level, smiling makes you more attractive, more appealing, more approachable and probably more successful… any good sales or customer service training will teach you to smile even while you're on the phone, the person on the receiving end "hears" that smile through your tone of voice. A smile is an inviting facial expression that tells people you are willing to talk and interact with them.

So, as mother suggested so many years ago, "Turn that frown upside-down if you want to make some friends!" Again, the most recent scientific studies have found that people are more willing to engage socially with others who are smiling.

Some studies report that just seeing one person smiling activates the area of your brain that controls your facial movement, which leads to a grin. What's neat about smiling is that it cam infect a whole room, one smile leads to another…  when someone smiles at us, we are inclined to smile back…Even in bad situations, if you smile, others are likely to mimic the expression.

Smiling is an easy way to boost your mood, be healthier, feel better, and be viewed as more trustworthy and a better leader. Whenever you’re in a stressful situation or feeling down, slap a grin on your face so you can take advantage of the many benefits smiling has to offer.

More on How Smiling Changes Your Brain



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