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      Volume 10 |Issue 17 | May 06, 2011 |


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Power of a Smile


Rita, a young woman in her mid-thirties has a habit of smiling easily at the people she meets. Her smile has its benefits; friends and relatives feel at ease in her presence and even strangers meet her with warm feelings. The easy, friendly attitude of others make Rita feel good about herself and she ends the day with a worldly feeling. The saying, “Smile and the world smiles with you” seems to hold good in Rita's life.

Smiling is a simple act and yet it can help one to carry through the most challenging segments of life. Experts found the untapped power of smiling. An intriguing UC Berkeley 30-year-old longitudinal study examined the smiles of students in an old yearbook. With the help of the smiles they were able to measure the students' well-being and success throughout their lives. It helped them to come up with upstanding results. By measuring the smiles in the photographs the researchers were able to predict; how fulfilling or long lasting their marriages would be, how they would score on standardized tests of well-being and general happiness, and how inspiring they would be to others. The widest smilers consistently ranked highest in all of the above. More fascinating is the study of 2010 Wayne State University Research Project on the baseball cards photos of Major League players in 1952. The study showed that the span of a players smile could actually help predict his life span! Players with beaming smiles lived an average of 79.9 years and players who did not smile lived the average life span of 72.9 years.

We are supposed to be a part of a naturally smiling species. Surprising is the discovery that we are born smiling. More astounding is the fact that the 3-D ultrasound technology shows that developing babies appear to smile in the womb. Babies continue to smile after they are born, especially when they are asleep. Even blind babies have been found to smile in response to human voices. A smile is a most basic biologically common expression of humans. Smiling is the most frequent mode of communication among humans. More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than 5 times a day. In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day. We can use our smiling powers to positively impact almost any social situation, and that smiling is really good for us. Paul Ekman, an expert on facial expressions discovered that smiles are cross cultural and have the same meaning in different societies.

A smile is contagious. It is difficult to frown at a smiling person. We have an innate drive to smile when we see a smiling person. We often smile at smiling strangers though we might not have wished to affiliate or connect with. Responding to a person with a smile and experiencing it physically helps us interpret how genuine a smile is. It helps to understand the real emotional state of the smiler. Charles Darwin's Facial Feedback Response Theory suggests that the actual state of smiling makes us feel better. A study conducted in the UK found that one single smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as 2000 bars of chocolate. They also found that smiling can be as stimulating as receiving 16000 Pounds Sterling in cash. And unlike chocolate, smiling can make you healthier. Smiling has documented therapeutic effects and has been related to reduced stress hormone levels, increased mood enhancing hormone levels and lowered blood pressure. And so if you have been keeping a grumpy face, change it for all the benefits smiling can bring! Life will come with ups and downs but this simple act can change your life.

If that's not enough, smiling also makes us look good in the eyes of others. A recent study of Penn State University confirmed that when we smile we not only appear more likeable and courteous, but we're actually perceived to be more competent. Other than meeting challenges with smiles, smiling is a relatively powerful way to significantly improve one's own life and to help and the lives of others. Mother Teresa has said,

“I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.”

You can try the Mona Lisa smile or just go for the easy-to- go friendly one. But the catch here is; your smile better be genuine!

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