Do you smile more than 20 times a day?

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Creating Meaningful Change

June 19, 2022

Do you smile more than 20 times a day?

Before you answer . . . a little set-up is in order.

I am always looking for ways to bring some simplicity and balance to our challenging work lives.  The smile is one of them.

The smile fits nicely into my Be Happy, Find Meaning daily mantra.  It is my version of the ancient Chop Wood, Carry Water – a reminder to find meaning in the essential elements of the day.

The typical smile, lasting only a few seconds, may be the most genuine expression of positive emotion that we experience.  So, back to the question.  How many times do you smile in a day?

Surprisingly, only a third of us adults smile more than 20 times.  Compare that to children who routinely and spontaneously smile 400 times a day.  What happened along the way?  Sadly we know.

We didn’t just get busy. We got preoccupied with all the little urgencies, worries and trepidations that can define our days.  The spontaneous, in-the-moment smile became a casualty in these contemporary, complex, comparative lives we lead.

But science reveals it is an expression worth reclaiming.  Big time.

Here’s the deal.  The smile . . . the true grin . . .  is a source of happiness, personal well-being and even longevity.  Yep, the more we smile, the longer we live.  We need to pause and let that sink in.  This simple manifestation of joy is not just the fleeting feelings of positive emotion but is a profound and revealing window into our most important personal resources.  For example, researchers found the amazing predictive power of a smile revealed in a college yearbook picture.  The smile captured in the simple photo predicted a range of well-being indicators 30 years later (work satisfaction, success, health, marital bliss, etc.).

So how does it work?  When we smile, endorphins and other feel-good chemicals are released into the brain . . . with incredible effects:

Making us happy . . . more productive . . . reducing the heart rate . . . lowering stress levels . . . and improving the immune system.

So, how do we do it?  How do we smile more?  Especially if we are not one of those “smiley” people.

First of all, consciously do it more.  Smile every time you think of it.  Even forcing a smile can signal the emotional centers of our brain that all is good . . . or soon will be.  Beyond those automatic situations when something funny or enjoyable happens, find reasons to smile.  Start your day with three “gratitudes” that will warm the heart and get you into the smile zone.  Routinely compliment or recognize others . . . triggering an upward spiral of smiles.

You might even develop a “rule” for yourself that every interaction begins with a smile.  Then try to keep it going.  It is difficult to hold a negative thought in your mind while keeping a smile on your face.  Have you ever “heard” someone smile over the phone?  If you smile on a call, the tone of your voice will naturally send a positive vibe that draws other in.  According to science, people who regularly smile tend to be perceived as . . .

More trustworthy . . . more interesting . . . more competent . . . more empathic . . . more sexy . . . and younger than they are!

Wow.  Who’s in?

Chop wood.  Carry water.

Be happy.  Find meaning.

Smile abundantly.  Pause Often.