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Smiles: A Quick Way to Boost Your Health and Mood
Smiling is so much more than just putting on a happy face. It can boost your mood and that of others.
The next time you’re in a bad mood, try smiling. How can I possibly smile if I’m in a bad mood, you ask? You say: I hate when people tell me to smile when I don’t feel like it.
But here’s why and how faking it can be worth the effort: Smiling can actually flip your mood.
When researchers looked at a group of studies (a statistical technique called meta-analysis) of more than 11,000 participants from around the world, they found that facial expressions greatly impacted feelings. The mind and the body interact to shape our “conscious experience of emotion,” according to one of the researchers.
Other studies have found that smiling can "trick” your brain into thinking you’re happy. (Brings to mind the “fake it ‘til you make it” idiom.)
Even smiling at strangers can be a boost
Even a brief exchange with a stranger – a smile, a wave, or eye contact and a nod – can give your mental health, and in turn your physical health, a huge boost.
In 2014, an interesting study was conducted. Each person in the 50-person study was given two clickers to count their encounters throughout the day for six days.
One clicker was used to count their interactions with their “strong ties,” aka the people they were close to. The other clicker was to be used to record interactions with “weak ties,” aka strangers, acquaintances and peripheral work colleagues.
At the end of the experiment, when the participants completed an online survey to report on the numbers and how they were feeling, here’s what happened: Those who had more conversations or interactions with weak ties tended to be happier than those who had fewer of the same type of interactions on a daily basis. And their happiness grew on those days in which they had these types of interactions.
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Some days, when I’m out and about and in the mood, I challenge myself to make a stranger smile (It’s even more fun when the person looks unhappy or grumpy.) I’ll catch their eye, and smile or nod at them.
Even though some people look like they’ve forgotten how to turn the corners of their mouths up, they do nine times out of ten. And they seem genuinely happy that someone silently reached out to them.
I like to tell myself I might even have made their day (although that may be a bit too ambitious of me.)
Granted, you may not always be in the mood to go out of your way for a stranger. Maybe you’re in a bad mood yourself and don’t want to deal with people. (If this is true, try warming yourself up by smiling first, and then move in for the make-the-stranger-smile challenge.)
And there are things you can do that go beyond a smile. Try holding the door for a stranger, compliment them on their shoes, let them go ahead of you in line…you get the idea.
You’ll make them feel good, and in turn, you’ll feel good for doing it.
A smile can make strangers happy and open the door to a possible friendship.