With absolutely no sense of irony, I am starting a small campaign on these pages: Say ‘No!’ to negativity. If I believe in anything then it is that life is here to be enjoyed and that means avoiding the negative and embracing the positive.
In 2008, my New Year’s Resolution was to be more positive. It’s hard to measure goals like that but if we take smiles-an-hour as our gauge then I have definitely improved. So I’m making this first entry about the joys of smiling.
You may be bracing yourself for an onslaught of glib, patronising Glee Club propaganda. And maybe that’s what you’re going to get but that’s just the sort of cynical knee jerk that I’d like to address. Smiling is not a bad thing. It’s not a sign of weakness or weirdness. It shouldn’t be embarrassing or uncool.
The simple fact is that if you smile more you’ll feel better and so will other people. Not willing to take it on my word alone? Well then, here are two empirical reasons to smile:
- The Facial Feedback Hypothesis: Experimenters got participants to look at a funny cartoon with a pencil held either in the teeth or between their lips. The latter made smiling impossible and ratings of how funny the comic strip was reduced accordingly. The gist of it is that the movements of your face can have a direct effect on your emotions. (Whether you subscribe to it or not, surely the mental image of people in lab coats making students chew pencils and read comics is putting a smile on your face?)
- The James-Lange Theory of Emotion: These guys reckon that our emotions are the result of our actions and not the other way around. That is to say, our bodies react to a stimulus (like seeing a great big bear), we interpret the reaction (like a fast heart rate and shaking) and deduce that we are scared. You might not be able to control your heart rate but you sure can move your facial muscles (so smile and it will make you happy).
I think my close-personal-friend Newton Faulkner summed it up best with the words: People Should Smile More.