I was asked by the editors of LinkedIn “What do you always carry with you” – and whilst I might have been tempted to write about an electronic device… the thing that I have always carried with me, and I continue to keep with me is my ‘smile’.
Here’s a game, a simple one, that you can play right now. Smile! Simply turn your lips upwards… You might think of something pleasant at the same time to make the game easier but it is not essential. Or look at a picture of someone else smiling. The simple physical act of moving your facial muscles into a smile will give you the experience of a happier disposition.
I have carried a smile with me always – it is never far away – even if I am having a stressful and unproductive day. As a teenager my friends noted that I was “always happy”. A sunny disposition is infectious: researchers have discovered that happiness is viral to at least three degrees.
People often remark on my voice mail message: “It sounds like you are having such fun there”. Even when people can’t see me, they can feel my smile. It is far easier to do business, get things accomplished and be purposeful when you have a smile on your dial.
An authentic smile is even more contagious but even if you have to fake it until you make it, plastering a smile on your face will have real and long-lasting benefits.
But don’t take my word for it – there are plenty of research studies giving insights into smiles.
The Examiner gives a good summary on “Why smiles are contagious“:
According to a Harvard Science article, Smile and the world smiles with you, but why?, author Loren Gary states:
We now know that the brain is structurally designed for sociability: Whenever we interact with another person — whether in the boardroom or the bedroom, the classroom, the marketplace or the playground — a brain-to-brain connection, or neural bridge, is formed.
In the Scientific American article, The Mirror Neuron Revolution: Explaining What Makes Humans Social, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni discusses how mirror neurons are the only brain cells that are specialized to code the actions of other people. These neurons lead us to “simulate” within ourselves what another is feeling and doing. Iacoboni states:
When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile. I don’t need to make any inference on what you are feeling; I experience immediately and effortlessly (in a milder form, of course) what you are experiencing.”
My smile has served me well – and I take it with me everywhere.