While walking through the grocery store the other day, I was in an incredibly bad mood. It had been a tough week at work, my personal To-Do list was a mile long, and I had just spent a frustrating few hours running errands that took entirely too long. Standing in the impossibly slow checkout line, my mind was whirling with the ten things I could be doing that would be more productive than chilling my heels watching someone else’s produce be scanned. A bump from behind had me whirling around, sharp retort on the tip of my tongue, stopped only by the lack of person behind the shopping cart that had just slammed into my ankles. I looked down and saw a small face peeking around from behind the cart. The little tyke looked me in the eye and her face split open with the most beatific smile. Her eyes sparkled, her dimples popped and I couldn’t help but return the expression.
Tomorrow, June 15th, is National Smile Power Day, a day designed to encourage and promote smiling. It seems kind of an odd thing to need promoting–smiling is one of the very first milestones we meet. Humans begin to smile in the first weeks of life. It’s instinctual, something we are practically born with. And yet, in the crazy, hecticness of life the simple gesture is often forgotten.
We live in a fast paced society where instant gratification has us primed for irritation when any little thing doesn’t easily go our way. And in a world full of technology, where social interaction is limited and text messaging and emails have taken the place of genuine face-to-face conversation. All this turns into a recipe for dissatisfaction, negativity and a lack of positive human connection. We use the smiley emoticon, but when doing so how often do we actually SMILE? In a real way, not just for a photo.
Research has shown that the simple act of smiling can, in fact, boost your mood. Through an actual chemical change, smiling can make you feel better and the expression of a positive emotion can help you see more positivity in the world around you.
Studies also show that a person’s body language is often copied during an interaction–we tend to unintentionally mirror the facial expressions of those with whom we interact. I left the store that day with a smile still lingering. A bit more pep in my step. A bit more positive energy. Having a bit more of a better day.
So let’s take tomorrow to beat back the negativity that life’s craziness can bring. To help a random stranger feel a tiny bit better and more connected. Let’s take tomorrow to simply smile. It’s contagious.
Emily MacDonald works as a nurse in Washington DC. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, movie nights with her husband and black lab and is an avid traveler with a lifetime goal of visiting all fifty states!