WHEN someone gives you a beaming smile, how do you respond? Most likely you smile back. And you probably feel happier too. Yes, genuine smiles—whether from friends or total strangers—are infectious, and they evoke good feelings. A woman named Magdalena commented: “Georg, my late husband, had a warm smile. When our eyes met, I felt relaxed and secure.”
A sincere smile indicates positive emotions, such as amusement, happiness, and pleasure. Indeed, “smiling . . . seems built into our nature,” noted an article in Observer, an online journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Even newborns, the article said, are able to “interpret facial expressions with great precision.” The article also stated: “Not only do people deduce useful information from smiles, they also use this knowledge to direct their own behavior.”*
Researchers at Harvard University in the United States studied a group of elderly patients and their responses to the facial expressions of health-care providers. When the caregivers’ facial expressions “were perceived as more warm, caring, concerned, and empathetic,” said the researchers, the patients felt more satisfied and their physical and mental well-being improved. The opposite was the case when the caregivers’ nonverbal communications distanced them from patients.
When you smile you may also be doing yourself a favor. The benefits, studies suggest, include increased confidence and happiness and reduced feelings of stress. Frowning, by comparison, may have the opposite effect.
SMILES “BOOSTED MY MORALE”
Magdalena, mentioned earlier, was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses during World War II. She was sent with other family members to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany for refusing to adopt Nazi ideology. “At times the guards stopped us from speaking with other prisoners,” she recalled. “But they had no control over our facial expressions. Just seeing my mother and sister smile boosted my morale and strengthened my resolve to endure.”
Perhaps you feel that life’s anxieties give you little cause for smiling. Remember, though, that feelings are usually preceded by thoughts. (Proverbs 15:15; Philippians 4:8, 9) So, hard though it may be, why not try to dwell on positive, pleasant things whenever possible?* Bible reading and prayer have helped many people to do just that. (Matthew 5:3; Philippians 4:6, 7) In fact, the words “happy” and “joy” and their derivatives occur hundreds of times in the Bible! Why not read a page or two each day? Who knows? You too may find yourself smiling more often.
Also, do not wait for others to smile at you. Take the initiative; add a little happiness to someone else’s day. Yes, see your smile for what it really is—a divine gift that enriches you and the people who see it.
Using figurative language, the Bible even describes God as smiling. Psalm 119:135 states: “Make your face smile [approvingly] upon your servant.”—Footnote.
See the article “Do You Have ‘a Feast Constantly’?” in the November 2013 issue of Awake!