If someone saw the look on your face right now, would they wonder why you look so serious?Maybe you’re just lost in thought: anticipating lunch with an old friend leads to reflecting on your past, which leads to bittersweet high school memories, which leads to career comparisons with your former classmates, which leads to worries about all the deadlines you have at work tomorrow. It goes on and on!MORE: The Beauty Benefits of SmilingThis mental marathon may seem all too familiar to you, but have you ever thought about whether you smile while caught up in your thoughts? Most people wear a somber expression as they sink into seemingly endless contemplation. Do you?When I want to feel good in the present moment, sometimes I don’t know what happiness-boosting technique to use or what teaching to apply. So I just smile. I smile and it feels good.If you want a happiness boost that is spontaneous and prompt, take notice of the expression on your face. You may find that a smile is just what you need.If you are like me, someone has probably told you to smile more often. In fact, psychological research supports this advice; smiling actually makes us happier.QUIZ: How Happy Are You?
Even if you don’t feel like smiling, there’s good news! You can fake it until you make it. One study found that people who mimicked a smile rated a comic strip as more funny, compared to people who mimicked a frown1. Sure enough, smiles or frowns (regardless of whether they are genuine) send signals to your brain, informing it that you are feeling happy or sad. Consequently, you actually feel these emotions.Therefore, it makes perfect sense to smile frequently because it’s a great way to feel positive emotions at a moment’s notice. Did you ever suspect that the look on your face is so interwoven with your happiness?Smiling is highly underrated. Unfortunately, our culture tends to associate smiling with a lack of intelligence or being naïve. What foolishness! Those who smile are reaping a happiness benefit that eludes their grimacing contemporaries. Also, remember that when we smile, the effect is contagious. People want to be around others who appear positive. They are also more likely to talk with you and smile themselves. Indeed, smiling is mutually beneficial for all involved!COLUMN: The Power of SmilesIf you are self-conscious about your smile, consider the following three ways to do it frequently and naturally. If you have a unique smile that feels right to you, wear it with pride! Whatever it takes to get those cheek muscles moving, do it!The “Everything will be all right.” smile: Worn proudly by the likes of Morgan Freeman, pictured above left, this smile is a good one to try as your go-to look. This smile might come from a realization that something is not as bad as you previously thought. If you feel grateful, hopeful, reassured or peaceful, this is the smile for you.
The “I’d rather be cheery than dreary!” smile: This is another good one to try as your default facial expression. If you are able to find the humor in everyday life like Jerry Seinfeld, pictured to the right, or you refuse to take things too seriously, you will find yourself wearing this grin. This smile also reflects optimism, lightheartedness, cheeriness and confidence.QUIZ: What Kind of Funny Are You?The “My smile cannot be stopped!” smile: This is the heavy-hitter that stars like Drew Barrymore, pictured above right, love to rock! Bring this one out when you are in a good mood or something makes you laugh out loud. Use your cheeks and squint your eyes if it feels natural. When you smile like this, you may feel joy, exhilaration, accomplishment or giddiness.Right now, try smiling, even if it doesn’t feel authentic. Hold the expression and count to ten—you may feel a little happier and the desire to continue smiling!Now imagine how you would feel if you were doing this most of each day! Take advantage of the biological phenomenon that occurs when you smile. Indeed, it may be one of the simplest and most obvious solutions for those who wish to be happier.GALLERY: Guess the Celebrity Smile