Stressed out all the time, but no time for a massage? Learning how to smile more often can help you lose the stress and lead a much better life. By Sarah Rogers
Smile and laughter are powerful forces of nature. When we smile and laugh, our bodies release endorphins and dopamine—nature’s feel-good chemicals. They improve our moods by making us feel calmer and happier. If it makes us feel so good, learning how to smile more often should be a mission for us all!
Generally, it allows us to cope better with stress, find hope, as well as see problems in a new light. The power of smiling and laughter should never be underestimated, as it turns a negative thought or moment into something with opportunity and positivity.
Smiling and laughter relieves stress
Yesterday I left the office under stress and scrutinizing the day’s events. What went well? What was finished? Where can I improve? On top of that I also ran through the list of to-dos at home. Do we have groceries? Is the laundry done? Did I make the credit card payment?
My head was near ready to explode with the mental list I obsessed over. I suppose I had a giant scowl on my face because as I was driving and looked over to the little boy on the moped beside me, his face was priceless. He took one look at my serious expression, and glared at me with the most sincere and stern eyes.
Now getting such a serious frown from a five-year-old was concerning. I must have been wearing quite the look. But what happened next was perfect, after a moment of seriousness he broke into a giant smile and starting laughing.
I couldn’t help my reaction. I instantly smiled back and giggled to myself. His innocent smile was so honest and open I couldn’t help but return the happiness he expressed to me.
Lo and behold, I forgot about what I was thinking and just felt lighter. As Charles Dickens once wrote, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,” and this child proved that to be so inherently true.
For kids, smiling and laughter comes as second nature. They don’t dwell on what happened or didn’t happen, and don’t obsess over what’s to come. They live each moment, and never question themselves or their emotions. This little guy on my commute home from work set me straight. I realized I need to stop scowling and remember to smile more often.
How to smile more often – And lead a better life
For some people, smiling and laughing is almost second nature, they do it frequently and genuinely. For others, it doesn’t come as natural. We must make the extra effort to smile and laugh more often.
There are several ways to do this. Some include making smiling cues or the age-old technique of faking it until you make it.
Below is a list of six techniques in order to start smiling and laughing on a more consistent basis and really feel the benefits of a genuinely good smile.
#1 Smile the moment you wake up. The first thing after waking up, before you get up from bed, right after you open your eyes is… SMILE! This may sound too simple, but smiling first thing in the morning packs a great punch.
If you smile the moment you wake, you set the tone for the rest of your day. You instantly feel better about whatever the day has in store. It helps you approach the day’s challenges with a positive attitude. It also does wonders for helping with morning drowsiness, as smiling gets you up and moving quickly!
#2 Practice smiling a lot. When you practice smiling it becomes easier and easier over time to do more naturally. You practice while looking in the mirror when you’re getting ready for your day. Eventually your smile looks less forced or strained, and your confidence sky rockets when you automatically smile at a situation without having to think too much about the response.
When you practice smiling, you start to see things in a more positive light and eventually rewire your brain to see more situations from a positive perspective, versus a stressful or negative one. Even if at first it feels a little forced and faked, it still works. Just keep practicing!
#3 Create smile cues. To get in the practice of smiling more often, you cannot only practice in the mirror but you can also create cues or reminders to smile. Tell yourself you are going to smile every time you open the door, see a dog or a baby, drink a coffee or go for a run.
Choose whatever you want to be your smile cues, but hold true–if you’re doing the action that’s part of a cue then you should smile! Choose simple things you’ll remember and keep smiling.
#4 Change your perspective. Think happy thoughts. Honestly, it works. If you’re thinking happy and positive thoughts, you automatically smile more often!
If you find it difficult to break the rut of negative thinking or a pessimistic attitude, try taking sixty seconds to change your perspective. Be still. Try not to give into the thoughts racing around in your head, and let your body just relax into a peaceful state.
Free of stress, self-doubt, work deadlines, and to-do lists, just focus on letting your mind be empty. It’s only sixty seconds, but it works to make you feel lighter. Change your perspective to allow more positivite in your day.
It’s kind of a quick meditation to clear your head and get you back on track to think in a more optimistic way, and with that comes more smiles and laughter.
#5 Smile at everyone. You might think this sounds ridiculous, but smile at everyone you see. Simply smiling at every person you come across in a day opens opportunities to happiness and generally feeling good about yourself and your life.
If you meet eyes with someone on your commute to work, instead of quickly looking away, make eye contact and smile at them. When you’re interacting with coworkers, smile. Even if you’re confronted with a situation or person that makes you feel uncertain, and you’re deciding between being stern and smiling, just think of one positive thing about the situation and choose to smile.
You’ll instantly feel happier when you choose to smile, and you make that other person feel good as well. Smiles are contagious so if you smile to everyone you see in a day. They pass on a smile to someone else that means a lot of passed on happiness.
#6 Smile a lot. Smile when you’re happy, when you feel love, when you feel playful, and even when you’re feeling sad or stressed. Smiling when you’re feeling good is simple, as it’s a natural reaction to smile when you’re happy.
Smiling out of love sometimes takes a bit more courage, as we might feel shy or embarrassed. But if you’re thinking of someone you care about, or something that you genuinely love, just smile. Be grateful you have someone or something to be passionate about.
Take a cue from the little five-year-old that set me straight, or from any other happy little one and remember openly smiling and laughing is an amazing opportunity to stop stressing and feel greater happiness.
Integrating smiling and laughter into your day will increase your positivity, decrease your stress, and generally make you feel more at ease in most situations.
Laughter and smiling not only makes you live a happier, healthier, less stressful and longer life, it also makes other people feel good as well. Passing on a smile instead of a scowl is much more beneficial for yourself and everyone around you.
Knowing how to smile more might not be second nature to all of us, but there certainly are things we can do to make ourselves feel more comfortable in sharing a smile with those around us!