Three times each weekday I greet groups of campus visitors as they’re about to embark on our campus tour. I offer a brief overview and introduce the tour leaders.
Far too often, as I try to warm up the crowd, I’m greeted by a smattering of stone-faced expressions. These people are not waiting for a root canal or an IRS audit, where there may be less obvious reason to smile. They’re about to stroll through a lovely college campus with a couple of charming college students. Why the long faces, people? It’s my team’s aim, of course, to have them smiling by the time they leave.
But in pretty much every crowd there are smilers. Some are subtle with only a happy glint in their eyes. Others are nodding and grinning and practically glowing with positive energy. I love these people, those whose default expression is a smile. Just standing in the presence of smiling faces makes me happier and encourages me to be even a little more awesome myself.
You want to be happy, right? No need to wait until you’ve reached some longed for accomplishment to be happy. Just act like you’re happy, and you likely will be. When you wake up, put a smile on your face. Make it a habit or ritual like brushing your teeth. When you greet people throughout your day, be intentional about smiling at them. Act like you’re happy to see them. Even if it’s just a nod and a quick smile. Fake it if you have to. Act like you are who you want to be. Use your body to inform your mind and your emotions.
There’s an old Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is telling a friend that the worst thing you can do if you’re feeling depressed is hold your shoulders back and your head up and smile. Then you’ll start feeling better, and “that’s no good at all.”
Sages know this is true:
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Science backs this up:
“Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.” Charles Darwin
And smiling is contagious thanks to evolutionary wiring. Your smile can cause others to smile. What if one of your missions each day was to elicit as many smiles from others as possible? Make some mischief with your smile to subvert and co-opt the Charlie Browns of the world.
This is a delightful, short TED Talk from Ron Gutman about the power and surprising benefits of smiling:
There’s also this $2 e-book by Gutman that expands on his talk with plenty of support from researchers on how and why smiling is so powerful.
Good grief, Charlie Brown. Just smile.