Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Mindful Monday: The Value and Power of a Smile.

This may seem a strange note to begin today’s blog on, but Monday 1st June 2015 has seen the death of the widely admired British politician Charles Kennedy. A man haunted by personal demons he is remembered for many things but the one thing mentioned by all commentators has been his wit and good humour. These are things sadly missing in much of modern political life and I believe this to be a large part of the reason why our liking of politicians is at a very low ebb. Our world needs more joy and happiness in every field. I believe that we have within us, the means to revolutionise relationships, business, sport definitely politics. The power source for this revolution would be the widespread use of that universal indicator of happiness and friendship: the smile.

The smile is the shortest distance between people. -Victor Borge

Genuine smiles can warm hearts, spread peace and light up cloudy days.VirgilGriffithFace by Meng Weng Wong Smiles do so much more than express happiness. A smile transmits clear messages about a person’s approachability, sincerity, trustworthiness, attractiveness and sociability.

Of course not all smiles are genuine, but fake smiles are easy to spot and usually only involve the mouth. A true smile however, what psychologists call a Duchenne smile, involves the eyes also. For a long time this was considered to be the mark of a real smile but it is now known that even Duchenne smile can be feigned.

A truer marker might be the speed at which a smile develops. The fake smile (‘Botox smile’, ‘Pan Am smile’) can be switched on in an instant. A genuine smile, however, will spread across the face more naturally, appearing to draw in its recipients. Slow onset smiles are seen as more authentic, trustworthy and even more seductive.

If we use our smiles in the work or business context, does that mean that they will always be of the false (non-Duchenne) variety? Of course not. If we truly believe in what we are doing, if we are acting with honesty and integrity, if we genuinely love our interactions with other people in all their variety, then those smiles will be as warm and true as any.

10882177_10205741722678650_4073863254311667909_nLaugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Laugh and the world laughs with you; Slobber and they put you outdoors. – Snoopy

You will have read or heard much about the fact that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. There is much more to the muscle thing too. Scientists have known for a long time that emotions are accompanied by numerous physiological changes, from increased heart rate to flexion of the zygomatic major muscle (i.e. smiling). More recently however, we’ve come to understand that the effect can work both ways. Your brain actually pays attention to what your body is doing, and it affects your emotions. Posture can influence the way you feel and although this was first called the “facial feedback hypothesis”, it applies to more than just muscles of the face. The good news is that while it is not always easy to control our emotions, it’s much easier to control our muscles. So try smiling more and you may well start to feel happier too!

The smile is an immensely powerful tool. 10013913_804587782888142_1591503148_nMost people think that we smile because we feel happy, but it can go the other way as well: we can feel happy because we smile.

So go on, smile. Just do it!


This is an updated version of an article originally posted on here in August 2012.

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