Do you ever walk down a busy hallway or street and look at peoples’ faces coming your way? Some folks frown, others read their cell phone messages and some smile. In fact, smile at you. And if that happens, probably you smile back.
I first noticed the power of a smile as a teenager. Walking down a busy New York City street, someone tossed a candy wrapper onto the sidewalk. Right next to a garbage can.
Being kind of rebellious (AKA hippie, nature lover, early environmentalist), I scooped up the wrapper, ran up to the man in the suit and said, “Oh, here, you dropped this. I’m sure you didn’t mean to.” And then I smiled.
Disarmed, he took the wrapper, smiled a little sheepishly and said, “Thank you.”
Years later, I now have some understanding of what happened that day.
New research in the fields of neuroscience, cardiology and psychology suggest smiling increases relaxation and reduces stress.
Marco Lacoboni’s neuroscience research found that specialized brain cells called mirror neurons, help us read each other’s body language. When I smile at you, not only does that fire up my smile neuro-circuitry, it lights yours up, too. Not to the same extent, but enough to make a difference.
So my smile tells me and you, “We’re O.K.”
(That’s probably why the man didn’t clock me.)
A genuine smile also activates the muscles around your eyes. And even if you are not actively smiling, those laughter lines tell others it’s a natural and frequent part of your make-up.
A genuine smile doesn’t mean, though, that you’re ignoring all the challenges in your life or the suffering of those you care for. It means you are tapping into an openness and connecting from the heart.
Until next time,