With age I’ve come to appreciate so many of the simpler things in life such as sitting on my front porch and observing Nature in all her mystery and grace, that first sip of hot coffee on a cold early morning or the joy exuded by Qanuk – my male GSD – as he races through the boreal forest on the trail of some scent. When one is open to such observations there seems to be no end to them and I relish identifying and experiencing all I can. I’ve often noted the simpler these actions or situations the more pleasing they can become. But most seem to stem from the world around me which is fine but also left me wondering why I am not the source of at least a few of my own ‘simple yet pleasing’ creations..?
Turns out I am capable of adding to the simple joy around me and by far the most powerful source for me is something I never thought twice about over the previous decades – my smile. Since I can remember people have always commented on my smile, generally noting its ‘intensity’ and its apparently pleasing nature. Sadly I did not smile much from my teens through my early thirties while in the grip of what I now understand was clinical depression. Only when some internal biochemical shift occurred in my early to middle thirties did the heavy, dark cloud of this depression begin to lift and with that I became a ‘lighter’ and more outgoing optimist. Of course my smile had always been with me but now it really did have a chance to blossom.
Across the past thirty years I’ve become more and more aware that my smile did set me a bit apart in some people’s minds and for the most part was seen as a positive. It has allowed me to ‘break the ice’ with many a stranger and sometimes these occurrences have developed into friendships or more. As with all such gifts it is a dual edged sword; often insecure people or those who feel ostracized or left out feel comfortable approaching me and starting conversations. At first I was a bit unnerved by these events but with time I came to understand their basis and just went with the flow. In so doing I learned to talk to almost anyone; developing this skill went hand in hand with my strong tendencies to verbosity in speech and writing.
As I reflect more and more on my smile I realize I have a history of using it to my advantage. Yes, it was often a good ‘ice breaker’ but it also served to put others at ease and seemed to communicate I was a friendly and open person. I now recognize I can readily employ my smile, along with humor, to put others at ease and this served me well when dealing with people from whom I needed something. With the proper employment of said smile I could often ‘encourage’ someone to assist me or go that extra mile for me. Without question this is a form of manipulation and in this context it doesn’t feel so ‘appreciated’. However, we humans are social beings and there are schools of thought that espouse the idea all our communications generally proceed from a ‘power base’ in which one person is dominant and the other submissive. If this is true then I’m sure I’ve employed my smile when acting from a ‘submissive’ position to help me modify the communication basis and ‘elevate’ myself. While it is manipulation it does seem to be of a lesser degree than, say, verbally or through body language implying threats or similar.
Only across the past fifteen years have I come to understand that my smile – and, for that matter, most people’s smiles – can be a real force for good. Smiles seem almost universally understood by humans and even many animals as a sign of peace, friendliness and openness as well as an invitation to communicate. I’ve seen very young children, watching me from their Mom’s shopping cart in a grocery store, light up when I smile at them. While volunteering in an Alzheimer’s facility there were many residents who showed a definite preference for being around me; the staff finally decided it was because of my beaming smile. Sometimes when just walking in the village or other locations I will smile at a stranger and almost invariably they return my smile. Many socialized dogs understand my smile to say I like them and mean no harm; this ultimately benefits us both as I love animals in general and canines in particular and I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t enjoy having their ears scratched. In hindsight I’m pleased to note I’ve left a lot of happiness and comfort around me and 99% of it has come from just my smile.
Smiling is such a simple thing and an action we humans take for granted yet this response does possess a real power of its own. But I’ve also noticed I get the best responses to my smile when it is genuine. Sometimes I will just ‘force’ it when I’m preoccupied or not feeling particularly positive; almost always the results are much less impactful. I much prefer to feel upbeat and positive when I unleash my smile so I’ve worked at insuring when I smile I mean it. Doing this means I need to engender a generally positive and cheery outlook in my daily existence. And this encourages a real ‘win-win’ situation for me; as I work to insure I maintain a generally buoyant and positive outlook I feel so much better and that’s reflected in the intensity and sincerity of my smile.
Please do not just take my word for the power of a smile; do your own research. But here’s an interesting article from the website longevity.about.com which lists ten reasons to smile:
- Smiling Makes Us Attractive
- Smiling Relieves Stress
- Smiling Elevates Our Mood
- Smiling Is Contagious
- Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
- Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
- Smiling Makes Us Feel Good
- Smiling Makes You Look Younger
- Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
- Smiling Helps You Stay Positive.
Maybe now you will join with me in spreading smiles far and wide? It’s so very simple yet it can, and does, have profound and far reaching impacts!