Smiling Adventures

Smiling is the quickest way to change a bad mood.  However, getting other people to smile on demand is a bit tricky. Attempts to get my sizeable family bathed, dressed and looking pleasant for a picture is like medieval torture. Just saying the words “family portrait” makes me break out in a cold sweat. When my non-enthusiastic family is finally lined up for this mother-initiated activity, I feel great compassion for our frazzled photographer.

“Pull that finger out of your nose,” the photographer says. “Would the teenager on the back row take off the sun glasses? Now everybody, look at me. You in the black suit - quit giving your wife finger antlers. Now on the count of three, everybody look at me and say pickles. One, two, three - pickles!”

Pickles? Why pickles? Because saying that word makes people smile. Try it. Why do we want to see ourselves smiling in pictures? Why not just snap a realistic photo of family members milling around showing their true mood at the moment? Because we all look and feel better when we smile. So why don’t we do it more often?

While insisting others smile can be a cause of great frustration, getting ourselves to smile will always bring us joy. If you want to conduct a truly magical experiment try this. Look each person you encounter in the eye and then smile. Do this even if you don’t feel like it and whether or not your life is running smoothly at the moment. Do this with family members and total strangers. Notice how smiling makes you feel.

When we smile, we send the signal to our brain that we’re happy. Our body responds to what we think and pretty soon we are happy. We feel more relaxed and radiant when we smile. Also observe the responses you receive after you smile. Most people will smile back. Will you receive a few odd looks? Yes, but don’t let that discourage you. Why do most people smile back? Because when someone smiles, we assume they’re thinking a kind thought about us. Smiling is contagious. The more smiles we give away, the more smiles we receive in return.