Does a person smile because they are feeling happy? Or does the act of smiling (a choice) bring along feelings of happiness?
As a practitioner of Reality Therapy, my answer is both! A smile is a smile.
Our actions, thoughts, feelings, and physiology all go hand in hand.
In Reality Therapy we call this Total Behaviour.
We can’t have one without the other so it doesn’t matter how that smile begins to spread. Once it’s there, it’s there! You will feel the feelings, think the thoughts, and experience the physiological changes when you smile (the doing component of Total Behavior)
Haven’t you ever experienced that?? My dad used to do this thing when I was angry or frustrated about something where he would say…
“I see a smile starting to come….oh there it goes….the side of your lip is starting to shake!”
Before you knew it I was smiling from ear to ear and laughing. Why?!?
Because I found what my father was both saying and doing to be funny and if I must be honest…somewhere deep inside I wanted to smile! I wanted to make that choice.
When you understand Total Behavior and realize that we can alter how we think and feel and what’s going on in our own bodies (stress response) by simply doing something we begin to understand the true value of cracking a smile!
Here are 4 good reasons to practice smiling. Even the little ones can create big changes in your feelings and mind set.
Reason #1: It Feels a Whole Lot Better When You Smile
Every time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain! Because our doing is connected to our feelings, thinking, and physiology, just the act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and contributes to happiness.
To geek out a little….Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work towards fighting off stress.
There is no feel-good party in your brain without these tiny molecules helping the neurons to communicate.
They pass along some important messages to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, and excited.
The feel good party invites in dopamine, endorphins and serotonin when you crack a smile. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
The total behavior smiling, generates enough endorphins to act as a natural pain reliever. Without the possible side effects of fake concoctions!! 100% totally natural.
Like I said, we can’t DO something without also generating a simultaneous change in what we THINK, FEEL, and experience in our BODY.
Reason #2: Smiling is Contagious
Even more so than the common cold! The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area. This is why we mimic and have a natural inclination to imitate what we see in others facial expressions. It is a built in way to connect.
So, if you are smiling at someone, it’s likely they can’t help but smile back.
If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to.
If we take a step back and look at the larger picture here, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to:
- Release feel good chemicals in your brain,
- Activate reward centers,
- Make you both more attractive, and
- Increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.
Reason #3: You Will Look More Attractive To Others When You Are Smiling
Smiles are pretty darn attractive for many reasons. When we smile, a subtle suggestion is made. That we are personable, easy going, and empathetic.
Let’s face it, we want people in our lives to be happy and share in joy, not grumpiness!
Oscar the Grouch was loved on Sesame Street…but I wonder how long in the real world it would take before his garbage can was rolled down the road.
I know from many clients that these other less effective total behaviors such as frowning, complaining, and sulking push people away and have the opposite effect than smiles. Of course like all of our behavior these other “total behaviors” serve an important purpose. Just as a smile does. Often, these behaviors are someone’s best effort to get support, to find help and attention for painful emotions and difficult situations.
“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside” – Denis Waitley
Reason #4: Want To Live Long? Smile!
I would like to add some words to our wise Vulcan Spock´s saying, “Live long and prosper….by smiling a ton”.
I view health as a holistic system that includes our emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing.
If you can accept that these aspects of ourselves are interconnected than you can certainly understand why smiling helps us live longer.
The very act of smiling brings about positive physiological changes within our body.
Frowning on the other hand creates a stress response in our bodies that is quite damaging.
You can probably think of some times when you experienced a lot of stress. You felt exhausted most likely. Maybe even became so run down that your immune system was damaged enough that you became sick.
Practice, practice, practice…..
If you can accept that there is a choice within a smile you can begin to practice DOING it.
What are the moments you need to do so most?
When might a small, but well calculated grin help you connect with someone special?
Need some help training those 17 muscles responsible for smiling?? Get in touch now for a free 30 minute consult.