Smiles Are Good Medicine

I think in our stress-inducing, pressure-cooking, “hurry up” society, too many of us have lost touch with the power and actual therapeutic value of a simple smile.

This realization came to me recently as I have been doing some job re-training. I am learning the fine art of voice acting, also known as voice over.

Nearly every time you listen to an advertisement on the radio, it’s a voice actor narrating. When you watch a TV ad where someone is talking over (thus “voice over”) the graphics and video, that’s a voice actor.

Voice actors also read books-on-tape, narrate company promotional videos, play the characters in cartoons and video games, and lots more.

Anyway, in the course of the training, the coach kept making a point to smile when we want to convey a friendly attitude, because “People can hear if you’re smiling.”

Crazy as it sounds, it’s true. You can hear a smile.

The shape of your mouth, cheeks, tongue and all the other human vocal mechanisms are literally in different positions when you smile.

The ensuing sound is unique to a smile, and your smile “sound” is unique to you. Nobody else does it like you.

Don’t believe me? Try it. Say something with your mouth in a low-down frown, or in a straight-line, teeth-grinding grimace.

Then say the same thing with a big, ridiculous toothy smile on your face.

It will sound completely different.

What’s more, when you smile, you instantly adopt a different frame of mind. It’s hard to be glum when you’re smiling.

A 2001 research project reported in the International Journal of Psychophysiology showed that if you mimic a smile by lifting the ends of your lips and squinting your eyes, your body will release serotonin, dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals.

That’s right, a natural high--and it’s perfectly legal and good for you!

And the impact on other people is equally amazing.

In fact, there is a physiological reaction that occurs when you see someone else smile. The simple term for this is “mimicry.”

Research has shown that we tend to unconsciously move certain muscles in our face when we see someone laugh, frown, smile, grimace or make any of the other expressions we’re capable of.

So when you smile, others seeing you will mimic your expression and are drawn to you because they want to know what’s so good that it makes you smile.

A smiling person has the same effect on you, whether you realize it or not.

The on-line website “Positive Psychology News Daily” focuses on the science of happiness. It is authored by alumni and students at the Master of Applied Positive Psychology programs and by invited guest authors. They even offer happiness coaches…really!

There is a whole field of science, and you can get a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology! How cool is that?!

But really, you don’t have to go through years of school and get a Ph.D. to know that smiling feels good (try it!) and most of the time makes others feel good and react positively to you.

I ran across a poem entitled “An Inspirational Thought: The Value of a Smile,” written by an unknown author, and it said that a smile can’t be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.

The poem also addressed those times when your biggest, brightest smile can’t bring someone out of a funk: “Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”

Where would we be in this world without smiles? Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

On this Friday, the 21st day of October, 2011, let’s all change our little corner of the world, wherever that may be.

Regardless of how your day is going so far, stop, paste a smile on your face and aim it at someone.

Go full-auto and zap smiles at everyone you see.

Hand out free smiles today to everyone.

Heck, offer two-for-one specials.

It won’t cost you anything except flexing a few facial muscles, and I’d be willing to bet it will pay back dividends you never imagined.

And I’ll bet you feel better at the end of the day. ☺

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is a regular contributor to PRB and lives in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (678) 350-8642 or e-mail