How often do you find yourself smiling during the day?
What’s to smile for? The world’s such a mess. Besides, I
heard it takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. I hate to exercise so
the more muscles I can use without much effort, the better.
Once. At exactly five o’clock p.m. every Monday through
Friday and twice on the second and fourth Fridays… when I get
never thought about it. Maybe 10-20 times a day. But when I smile, I
hardly ever show my teeth because they’re not perfect and I can’t
afford to get them fixed.
My life is
a smile! I hunt for smiles. Everywhere I look, there’s something to
smile about no matter what’s going on in my life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
humor me if you would, for 16 seconds. This will be fun, I promise.
Put a smile on your face. Now make it bigger. Now smile like the Cheshire
Cat in Alice in Wonderland – ear to ear. Keep holding your smile and now
breathe in deeply through your nose. Keep holding the smile and now let
out your breath. Repeat twice more (your brain learns with repetition of
Great job! Now look around and see if people are watching you. If they
are, make a big smile again, hold it, raise your eyebrows, and then wave
to them. If they engage you, feel free to share what you’re doing with
them and have a good laugh together. When you’re finished, I invite you
back to keep reading. If they don’t respond or weren’t watching, just
keep reading and enjoying the burst of feel-good chemicals – endorphins
– your brain just sent to your body.
Consider the above request and breathing exercise in your introduction to Enthusiasm
101. Mind, body, and breath are the essence of enthusiasm. If you are
already an enthusiastic or active person, just like an Olympic athlete,
think of the previous exercise as a warm-up for going for the
In this 21-Day Smile Diet, we’ll explore different ways you can
jumpstart your enthusiasm day-by-day, keep yourself (and others) smiling,
and put your system in what research scientist Mihali
Csikszentmihalyi calls a “state of flow.”
On Day 1, we’re focusing on one of the most readily available and
powerful enthusiasm generators in existence – your smile.
smile is the most universally recognized and understood gesture every
culture understands and 99.9 percent of the population enjoys giving and
receiving. We can identify a smile more easily than any other expression,
even from a distance of up to 300 feet. We smile when we when we feel
good, when we see someone we love, when we reach a long-awaited goal, when
we’re embarrassed, and when we need to mask anger we can’t
appropriately express at the moment. We even smile on cue when anyone with
a camera calls out, “Say cheese.”
Different Types of
of California San Francisco researcher Paul Ekman and his colleagues
identified 19 different types of smiles. Categorized into two basic
categories, polite “social” smiles engage only mouth muscles, and
genuine, happy “felt” smiles activate muscles on both sides of the mouth
and around the eyes. Felt smiles light up the left frontal cortex of the
brain where pleasure is registered.
of California at Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner and Lee Ann Harker
identified six basic types of smiles to express feelings. The last three
turn on the enthusiasm switch. They are:
POLITE Smile: We turn up both corners of our lips, but there's no
engagement with our eyes. We give this type of smile to strangers. The
polite smile is often used by politicians or others with a personal agenda.
Smile: We raise one side of our lips higher than the other. This is also
referred to as a fake smile.
Smile: We bend our heads forward a little, look away or down, and press our
lips together when we smile. It’s used when we have made a mistake,
overstepped our limits, or been caught doing something against the norm.
Smile: Our lips raise up and part, our teeth may even show. Our eyes light
up and crow’s feet (tiny wrinkles that do have a grander purpose!) appear
on our skin around the edges of our eyes. A muscle under our eyes also lifts
up. (For some people, it’s the best and only exercise they get all day!)
It’s also known as the “Duchenne Smile,” named after an 18th
century French neurologist who first reported on smiles of the will and
smiles of the heart.
Smile: We tilt our heads toward others while we’re doing the GENUINE
Smile: We do the GENUINE, LOVING smile and add a forward-leaning body
movement toward the recipient, showing that we’re on the same wavelength.
and emotionally, a smile tells our brains that we are safe, that we fit in
(or want to fit in), and that we can relax. When we smile at others, it
sends a message of trust and good will. Consequently, we’re seen as open
How Often Do People Smile?
of smiles per day at home – all adults:
to 20 times: 46 percent
than 20 times: 36 percent
than five times: 14 percent
of smiles-per-day at work - all adults:
to 20 times: 30 percent
than 20 times: 28 percent
than five times: 13 percent
Opinion Research Corp. International, 1997
are you’ve rarely given thought to the impact of your smile on your energy
level, health, success, or relationships. You may have been aware of your
“grin factor” if you were a shy, serious child prodded by your parents
to smile for the neighbors. Or, as a teen, if you had a crush on someone and
practiced your smile in the mirror while having an imaginary conversation.
Or, more seriously, if you are self-conscious about your teeth or you feel
depressed and just can’t seem to find your smile at all.
are a sign of good health and happiness. Keltner’s research at the
University of California-Berkeley also showed that practicing the smiles of
enthusiasm – the genuine smile, the loving smile, and the synchronized
smile – on a regular basis will positively impact how you feel and perform
in life. Keltner reviewed the lives
of 100 women over a 30-year period after graduation from Mills College. He
found that women who had the most intense smiles in their high school photos
were married sooner, stayed married longer, and were happier in their lives
than those who smiled with less intensity.
their 50s, the women with the bigger smiles were 20 percent more likely to
be happily married, 20 percent less likely to have serious tension in their
lives, and 27 percent more likely to have a strong sense of well being.
don’t usually think about the value of our smiles until they’re taken
The Power of Your Smile
that you’re like a woman I met named Linda: homeless, without a job, on
welfare with two young children. You’ve been living in a domestic violence
shelter for three weeks, hiding from an angry, abusive spouse who knocked
out four of your front teeth. Your self-esteem is at an all-time low and the
last thing you want to do is put a smile on your face. Yet your smile is the
very thing you most need from others—and from yourself—to help you start
putting your life back together again.
Now imagine a compassionate volunteer who smiles at you without judgment and
offers you an enthusiastic hug every morning. Soon, you’re beginning to
feel a smile creep back on your face and thinking that you maybe you can
make it. Never underestimate the power of your smile and energy to change
another person’s life. Thanks to programs like Francie Pepper’s Safe
House in Cincinnati and the Speaking of Women’s Health Dental Fund, women
like Linda can apply for grants to get the resources they need for
rebuilding their smiles and their lives. (Contact
www.speakingofwomenshealth.org to learn about similar programs in your
Whether our lives have been torn apart like Linda’s or we’re fortunate
enough to say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” how do
we keep healthy and enthusiastic smiles on our faces on a daily basis?
I spent two and a half years in college studying dental hygiene. At my first
class clinic, I fainted. When I came to, I immediately realized I was
happier carving wax teeth than cleaning real teeth. So I withdrew from the
dental program and enrolled in art school. But the lessons I learned about
the importance of oral health stay with me to this day:
your dental hygienist
your dentist once, preferably twice a year
smoke (reach for floss instead!)
and floss twice a day
two new suggestions that make all the difference in the size of your smile:
your teeth. (Crest has these very cool white strips you can get at the
grocery store or drug store.)
a power brush because you’ll brush better and longer. (I love my Crest
“Little Mermaid” spin brush and give them as birthday gifts to
Create Your Own Personal Smile Ritual
comedienne Carol Burnett sang her closing song to the audience on her weekly
television show, she ended it with a smile and a tug on her left ear lobe.
This ritual signaled to her grandmother Nanny that all was right with the
I have a smiling ritual I do when I’m shopping. Whether it’s the grocery
store, department store, restaurant, dry cleaner, office supply store, or
gas station, I enjoy getting checked out (no, not that kind of
“checked out,” although the older I get, the more appealing that
sounds). When it’s my turn, I send out a big smile and attempt to make eye
contact with the checkout person. Sometimes we become fast friends,
discussing the latest gossip on the cover of the National Enquirer or
The Globe. Other times, it takes several seconds for me to connect
with them because they’re so focused on their tasks.
There’s a deeper reason we’re not connecting. When I started talking
with front-line people, I learned that many of them feel undervalued and
unappreciated. They work long hours for low wages. They smile a lot, say
hello, and in return they often get complaints or disinterest from
customers. Having worked during my high school and college days as a cashier
at Shore-Vu Grocery Store, a waitress at the Pig’n Whistle, and a
babysitter for three siblings and 24 neighbor children, I can identify with
them. I’m guessing you can, too.
It’s easy to be enthusiastic and smiling when people are in a good mood or
feel kind and helpful. You and I both know it’s another story when
someone’s cranky or rude.
Every time you smile at someone, it is an
action of love, a
gift to that person, a
frequent a gas station that employs a dour-looking older service attendant.
It appears that life has not been kind to him. I first noticed him one day
when the pumps were broken and customers had to go into the office to pay
for gas. When I handed this curmudgeon my credit card, I smiled as I
normally did. He didn’t smile back. Irritated, I thought, “Who does he
think he is? I’m paying him. He ought to be friendlier, considering the
prices we pay here.” I left feeling annoyed.
The following week I went back, hoping for a different attendant. No such
luck. There he was, as usual, looking distant and grumpy. I pumped my gas
and used the credit card machine at the gas pump to pay my bill. My evil
twin was on my left shoulder, feeding me sarcastic one-liners just in case
he looked my way. But Mother Teresa was sitting on the right shoulder and
she won. As I was leaving, I forced a penitent smile and waved to him. Lucky
me: I caught his attention and received a “Make my day” stare. My
self-esteem was beginning to get involved. This man must be on downers! I
haven’t done anything to him, I thought. I smiled even bigger – like a
chimpanzee, almost glaring. Still no facial movement from him. Not even a
muscle twitch. What is wrong with this guy?!
Ready to find another gas station but sensing Mother T smiling at me from
above, I decided to give it one more try. I was on a mission. I vowed to
myself that, for the benefit of humanity, I would somehow find a way to make
him smile before I leave the station the next time.
you would like to spoil the day for a grouch, give him a smile.
arrived a week later. I pumped my gas. As I walked toward the glass-plated
window and wide open door, I focused a laser-beam “I know there’s
something good in you somewhere down there” smile on him. No deal.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. I was on the warpath, I mean, peace path. I pulled out
the big guns and began a new technique of heart breathing and smiling (More
about this on Day 5). Still nothing. “This guy is a tough cookie,” I
Plan B. As he put his hand out for my credit card, I was prepared. I
imagined being Julia Roberts. With a full-on smile, I started to move the
card toward his hand and just as his fingers went to grab it, I pulled the
card back. I said, “I’ll bet you have a great smile. I’ll give you my
card if you give me a smile.” I fully expected him to crack a smile, maybe
even chuckle a bit, so I was unprepared for what he said in the most
downtrodden, flat voice and broken English: “Ma’am, if I smile at you,
there’s a real good chance you’re going to misinterpret my smile and I
could end up with a lawsuit for appearing to solicit your services. That’s
why I don’t smile. I am not in my own country and life is hard here. I
want to keep my job.”
My heart ached for him, for me, for the world, for all the times we hesitate
to offer our humanity out of resentment, anger, fear of litigation,
violence, rape, or even simple miscommunication. “I understand,” I said,
feeling tears well up. Embarrassed, I fumbled for a moment and then
responded. “Thank you for being so honest. I’m sorry it’s so hard for
you. I appreciate all that you do.” I smiled. And of all things, he smiled
Now, every time I go into the gas station and finish pumping my gas, as I
drive past the open door, I teasingly take my index finger, push up the left
corner of my lips, and the right corner follows. From behind the
glass-plated window, a smile beams back. Compassion and understanding are
high-octane fuels that keep the engine of enthusiasm running at an optimal
level and deliver a smile 99% of the time.
There are hundreds of languages in the
world, but a smile speaks them all.
Turn Your Smile into a Joy Machine
energy source within you has the potential to turn your smile into a joy
machine. Someone needs your smile today. When you’re out in the world in
the next 24 hours, look for someone whose services you use that could
benefit from an ear tug, a kind word, an extra second of eye contact,
understanding, or your biggest smile.
Nobody needs a smile so much as the one who
has none to give. So get used to smiling
heart-warming smiles, and you will spread
sunshine in a sometimes-dreary world.
~LAWRENCE G. LOVASIK,
The Hidden Power of Kindness
TODAY’S ACTION STEP
yourself a big smile in every mirror or window reflection you see yourself
in. If you’re a really extroverted person, wave back. People will wonder
what you’re up to, and most will smile and shake their heads. You might
just make their day.
TIPS TO CREATE MORE ENTHUSIASM
a small spiral notebook with you for a day, or get a counter and click
the number of smiles you make in a day. Aim for 50 genuine
how long you can hold a smile and eye contact with another person before
you start laughing or have to look away. Work up to one minute.
other people’s smiles, even if they’re off in the distance, and
smile along with them to get in on the good feelings. Practice random
acts of smiling.
your smile in the mirror. Spend a few minutes trying different smiles
and then give yourself a genuine smile and hold it for 16 seconds.
involved in National Smile Week in August to promote dental health or
participate in World Smile Day on October 4, which was started by Harvey
Ball, who created the “Smiley Face.” (A simple drawing of a smiling
face on a yellow background.) Follow his motto: “Do something kind.
Make one person smile.”
TO ASK YOURSELF
many times did you smile yesterday?
and what make you smile? List at least 10 people and things.
was going on during a recent time when your smile made a big difference
to someone else?
has someone’s smile healed a hurt or dramatically affected your life?
Who was that person?
are three service people you frequently see who could use an extra smile
and a kind word from you?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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2003 Mary Marcdante