Every now and then I run a little social experiment. When I’m walking down the street, I make a point to smile at everyone I walk past. Now, I don’t mean I get in anyone’s face or do anything particularly weird or unusual, just a casual smile and meeting of eyes as you walk on by.
What I love about this is that pretty much everyone responds. Instantly. With a smile.
If they don’t, well, it means they’re in a seriously bad mood or trying very hard not to reciprocate.
This is because smiling is an automatic response and one that occurs so rapidly in the brain, that the mechanism is activated before we realise. It’s a simple and very beautiful thing, this natural human reflex to respond to a smile with a smile.
Unfortunately, when we’re under a lot of stress or we’re having a bad day, the last thing we really want to do is break into a big broad beaming smile. It’s a little like looking back on those family gatherings where someone decides to take a whole group shot and you have to say “cheese” for the camera. By the time the shot gets taken, those broad grins somehow slip into surly grimaces.
Yet we know from the research, that a smile, along with a little humour, offers us one of the fastest ways to re-set, re-balance and re-establish equilibrium through the course of the day.
The good news too is that the smile doesn’t actually have to be real! So the grimace you make as you glare at the camera can actually work. As long as the corners of your mouth are lifted, this physical movement of the facial muscles is enough to pour a wonderful chemical cocktail that cascades through the brain and body to give yourself a little lift.
So next time you’re feeling under the pump, stressed out of your mind, or just plain grumpy, take just one second to stop and life the corners of your mouth.
So here’s to saying “Cheese”!