“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking, when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by, if you smile through your fear and sorrow smile, and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through, for you.” — Smile, Nat King Cole
I grew up with this song on repeat. Whenever I feel down, or see a friend who seems down in the dumps, I sing this song. Growing up, no matter how sad I, or those around me were, the song never failed to put a smile on our faces. I always assumed that it was because of our horrible singing, or because the song is “cute,” but as it turns out, there is a lot more depth to smiling — even if it is forced.
It takes 62 muscles to frown, and only 26 to smile. Interestingly, smiling, even when we are sad, tricks our brain into being happy. How? When our “smiling muscles” contract, they fire a signal back to the brain, increasing our level of endorphins, or “happy hormones”. Essentially, when we smile, our brain receives a pleasant stimulus that it perceives as joy, regardless of the emotion we experienced previous to smiling. Hence, smile NOW. Don’t wait until things get better or you are where you want to be. You may risk spending the rest of your life waiting and not smiling. Smile now and then feel better and get to where you want to be. The habit of smiling may be THAT powerful and transformational!
Smiling can change the way your life goes. It sounds crazy, but it’s true! A recent study by psychology scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman, showed that women who had the best smiles in their yearbook, lived happier lives, had happier marriages, and experienced fewer setbacks. Other studies found that there is a correlation between how big you smile and how long you live. According to studies by Cosmetic dermatologist, Eric Finzi, and Georgetown Psychiatry Professor, Normal Rosenthal, your life is prolonged because smiling lowers heart rate and stress levels, as well as depression. Putting on a happy face actually makes you happier and keeps you healthier.
Think about it, it makes sense. Think about a moment when you’ve been at your happiest — maybe it’s after seeing a dear friend after a long time, or a special event such as your graduation, wedding, or birthday. In any of these happy events in the life of an individual, one action is prevalent — smiling. Your brain keeps track of how much you smile, and I’m not talking about those lovely laugh lines that you then want to freeze with botox. Your brain knows how often you smile and, based on the frequency, it considers it a habit. It is that healthy habit that helps reduce stress and generate more positive emotions. It is up to you to create the habit of smiling, even when your reaction is more inclined to frowning.
But what if you don’t want to force yourself to smile? What if you can’t keep the smile?
If you’re like me, you don’t want to smile when you’re down. You don’t want to trick yourself into feeling better because you probably don’t even believe that is possible in the moment. Whenever I’m upset, I’d rather wallow in my misery than work extra hard to make myself feel better. There is some sort of relief or comfort in assuming the victim role. Trust me, I know. For the longest time, I felt miserable and unhappy. I couldn’t find satisfaction in life and felt very unfulfilled. Not only was I miserable, but I also devoted my life to making others miserable. Why would they deserve to be happy and not me? It was easier to frown at life and pity myself, than it was to smile and reframe life in a more positive light. My relationships with my mom, dad, siblings, and school friends crumbled. I was in such a low point, that I even sought comfort in self-harm tendencies. I felt as if I would hit rock bottom and the bottom would give. I sure didn’t smile then.
I thought I’d never find a way out of this.
Somewhere along the way, though, I found my “happy place.” I know it sounds very cliche, and for a long time I didn’t understand why people said it so much: “go to your happy place.” I always thought to myself, “what does that even mean? How do you know what your happy place is?” I always wondered what a happy place looked like, felt like, and how to find it. I almost didn’t even recognize it when it was right in front of me. To find your happy place, you only have to answer one simple question: when am I at my utmost happiest? Now, this can take many forms — whether it’s a person who makes you happier than anyone else, or a memory of when you remember being at your happiest, or even a figment of your imagination. Regardless of what it is, this is where you summon your smile from. When you’re mad, sad, upset, or any other manifestation of a negative emotion, summoning your happy place brings a smile to your lips almost unconsciously.
But maybe you can’t find your happy place. What then?
There are many other ways, many other reasons to smile, without your happy place. Make someone else smile! While it sounds weird, making another person happy, releases the same ‘happy hormones’ that we release when we smile. Think about the last time you made someone laugh. How did you feel? No wonder I felt so miserable putting other people down! I was doing the opposite, so I was experience the unpleasant hormones. Fortunately, I now find great joy in making others smile. It is God’s will for us to love and serve others, so it makes sense that we find joy in making others happy. A simple act of kindness can make this happen. In fact, next time you’re at school, work, or out at the mall, and you think somebody’s shoes are cool, or love their outfit — don’t just think it, say it! You never know what others are going through, and a simple kind comment may turn their day around by helping them focus on one simple blessing that you made them aware of.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
Whenever I’m feeling miserable, I play a game with myself. I make a list in my head of all the good things. ALL of them. I list all the good things I’ve ever seen others do, everything that I am thankful for having — from big things such as food, clothing, health, to something as insignificant as the fact that the sky is light blue because that is my favorite color. I make a list down to every last little thing I can remember. I do it over and over again. It is a list of things to SMILE for. Because I can assure you, no matter how bad you have it, you always have more reasons to smile. God has given you an infinite amount of reasons to smile — including one that outshines ALL reasons to frown — the love of Jesus.
You are a MIRACLE!
I used to believe that there was “nothing” to smile about. In the past three years, however, I’ve come to realize that there is one thing we can all smile about. That fact that you are a miracle. The probability of us being on this Earth is astronomical. Mathematically speaking, I once read that this is how it goes:
“The probability of a boy meeting girl is 1 in 20,000. The probability of said boy “knocking up” said girl is 1 in 2000, leaving us with a combined probability of 1 in 40 million. But it doesn’t end there. The probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg is 1 in 400 quadrillion, and that’s just ONE contained couple. The probability of every one of your ancestors reproducing successfully is 1 in 1045,000. This is only talking about the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg that the exact ancestor that would end up creating you. Finally, the probability of you being born is 1 in 102,685,000.”
By definition, a miracle is a “a surprising and welcomed event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws, and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” You are a divine creation and, hence, you are amazing and so worthy! If that’s not something to smile about, I don’t know what is!
Smile NOW to feel happier and start the journey of becoming a better version of yourself. Remember that you can outsmart your brain by simply smiling and releasing the “feel good hormones” that trigger joy within. Don’t wait until things are resolved or happiness is experienced due to outside forces. The true, unbreakable joy is inside of you and is a decision, rather than a reaction. Smile when you want to frown or cry. Smile when you see the blessings amidst the pain. Smile when you look at your miracle in the mirror.