As I was digging into a yummy pastry in a public place, a toddler came by, tugged at my dress and gave me the most heartwarming smile. The fact that I was a complete stranger didn’t stop this toddler. A simple act of a smile brought so much joy to me. This got me thinking. Can a simple smile without any words bring us joy?
Toddler’s Smile vs a Stranger’s Smile
I wondered, are we all born with this natural ability to smile unconditionally? Did we lose its sheen as we grew up? I thought, in a similar situation, if an adult stranger smiled at me would it be the same as a child smiling at me? The answer is probably not.
My immediate thought would be, “Is there an ulterior motive in that smile?”. I am sure, I’m not alone here. The conditioning starts when we are very young; maybe with our life experiences or what others narrate to us. Or, of course, what our parents may have told us at a young age!
Such as, “don’t talk to strangers” or “don’t look into strangers’ eyes” This makes a lot of us use our natural ability to smile less than required.
Benefits of a Smile
I am sure you are aware of the benefits of a smile.
Did you know a smile induces more pleasure in the brain than chocolate? Also, according to psychologists, a smile whether genuine or forced can trigger the right brain, which can help our creative side. A smile from you can uplift someone’s mood apart from yours. It can spread positivity and can be contagious too.
At a psychological level, a smile can be a powerful act of an acknowledgement of the other person’s existence. Others may perceive it as a message like, “I feel seen by you” or “I feel acknowledged by you”. Don’t we do things just to be seen, heard or to be acknowledged?
When we smile, our brain releases small molecules called neuropeptides, that help fight stress. Smiling thus helps reduce stress and even relaxes the heart beats.
Having said that, it does not mean we hide our feelings of sadness and fear. Our feelings have a place and purpose, which needs to be acknowledged and expressed.
Start a Smile Revolution
I am wondering, how we could start a simple ‘smile revolution’!
- The best or safe place to start this is probably at home. Thinking and building positivity within ourselves; and, sharing with others at home, can surely make it a better place to live in with frequent smiles.
- At least one phone call a day, with one or the other close friend, to just catch up and share good experiences or plan the next dinner together or any other enjoyable activity can bring the smiles back.
- Taking some time out everyday, for casual chats and interactions with colleagues at work, where we talk about having fun- narrating some recent experiences, sharing ideas on the next fun trip, planning joint outings etc can help in ensuring the smiles are back.
- Smiling at neighbors as you walk past them; even if you don’t personally know them.
- Looking at and focusing on own or others’ pets is a great time-out moment. It invariably brings a smile.
- And as it becomes a habit, we learn to be in the here and now and smile at what’s around us, what we otherwise have stopped noticing – like the greenery, the birds, stray animals, the poor people on the street sides …..
A kind word and a beautiful smile can really change someone’s life for the better and make it a beautiful world to live in. Just like the toddler made my world much happier and a beautiful.
And at the same time provide us that sense of positivity, peace and satisfaction which we need to keep moving ahead in life!
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa
Hema Sreedharan is on the Counsellors & Therapists panel at InfinumGrowth and available for online consultations.
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