Smile On

Never let your face drop. Keep it constantly alive. The audience should never see you bored.

This was the message I heard for thirteen years. Whether I was mid-piroute or leaping through the air, my smile always had to be there too.

Three years after leaving the dance world behind, I stood up in front of a public speaking class to give my first speech. After I finished, all the teacher said was “Who are you?! This can’t be the same person who sat in her seat, quiet and reserved every day until now. Your face lit up!”

Growing up as a dancer affected me in multiple ways, but one of the strongest results is the subconscious effect it took on my facial expressions. It’s possible they were part of me before I began to dance, but when you start something at the age of 3 it is hard to distinguish what came first.
I mean I guess that looks like a happy kid… :)
I’ve had everyone from a coworker to a Jamba Juice employee tell me that I am one of the happiest people they’ve ever seen. I scoff at this.

Honestly, I don’t consider myself an extremely happy person. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years, so the thoughts storming through my brain are often not the happiest. I can be strongly pessimistic, angry, judgmental, and fearful. I worry more than most people. I have wounds and scars like everyone else.

But when I smile, it is rarely insincere. Even with all of those dark emotions, my ability to keep smiling is what helps me remain positive. I was trained as a dancer to never lose face, and although that led to some negative repercussions of hiding my emotions, it also taught me how to find joy despite moments of pain or fear.

There is plenty of research to back up the benefits of smiling.

In a 2011 study at the Face Research Laboratory of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. The results showed that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not (source: Psychology Today).

Another study released in 2012 by psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman at the University of Kansas found that “smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy” (source: Psychological Science).

Knowing the specifics of this research is not what makes your smiling more effective. An article in Scientific American explains, that “to reap the benefits of proactive behavioral strategies, you can’t think too much about them.” The point is, all you need to do is remember to smile.

My post yesterday was about a deep tragedy in our country right now and the grief that follows. This post is not to reduce that grief, but to remind you that a smile can go a long way. We must hope, focus on the bright spots, and find ways to face the evil around us with the powerful joy that comes from loving community.

A article called “The Science Behind the Smile” in the Harvard Business Review remarked that “we have a remarkable ability to make the best of things. Most people are more resilient than they realize.”

Do you smile a lot?
How does it effect your attitude?

One thought on “Smile On

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