Someone once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Such a warm smile can take many forms. It can be a mother warmly smiling at her newborn baby, or friends smiling and laughing at a silly joke. It can be a grandson smiling at his grandfather on his birthday as he blows out the candles, or a professor making her students feel welcome and valued. A smile is the most beautiful part of the universal human language. This simple act of kindness sends a powerful message. Whether child, college student, or senior citizen, everyone understands that a smile is a physical manifestation of kindness and love.
Nothing will ever replace a smile. A warm smile can instantly lift our spirits and brighten our day. Jacqueline Kennedy knew the value of a smile. She won the hearts and minds of Americans with her kind way, and felt their collective love during her personal times of extreme hardship. The American public’s intense infatuation with Jacqueline Kennedy was long lasting. Decades after her death, she continues to be admired and recognized as one of America’s most distinguishable and beloved first ladies. Beyond the elegance, class, and poise, her kindness was magnetizing.
The biological physiology of a smile is intriguing. The smile begins with a sensory input to the brain which excites the left anterior temporal region of the brain. The brain then fires signals to two specific facial muscles directing them to contract. The zygomatic major in the cheek lifts the lips, while the orbicularis oculi squeezes the outside corners of the eye. During this genuine expression of positive emotion, the brain activates neuropeptides which reduce stress. The positive feeling neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are all released into the body when triggered by a smile. A simple smile has powerful biological effects.
A warm smile can also deescalate a potentially negative interaction. Goldie Hawn said, “I have witnessed the softening of the hardest of hearts by a simple smile.” It is difficult for individuals to remain negative or frustrated when they are surrounded by happy, smiling people. Such positive feelings conveyed by a smile can be infectious.
The constructive energy that begins with a warm smile positively impacts both individuals and organizations. Forbes recently published an article on the relationship between happiness at work and greater performance and productivity. The study, which included 3,000 respondents from 79 countries, concluded that happy workers were more productive workers. With the currently labor shortages that many of us are facing, these findings are important to consider if we are to attract and retain productive employees.
Today I challenge both myself, and everyone who reads this article, to share a warm smile with someone. Use your million-dollar smile to bring a moment of happiness into someone’s life. You might just find that in your effort to brighten someone else’s day, you end up brightening your own.
Dr. Tod Allen Farmer is the president of Weatherford College.