Jeffosophy: a collection of possibly useful things I have learned over the years.



Me, smiling 

This Post Will Make You Smile

Today, I am sharing with you the easiest self-improvement advice ever offered in the history of the human race. That advice is to: smile, smile often and share your smiles generously. In fact, I am a natural smiler. It helps that I am easily amused and am often lost in thoughts, happy thoughts. I smile for no reason. I smile when I see friends. I smile when I bring my shopping to the cashier. I also laugh to myself sometimes. This, however, is possibly a bit weird. Fortunately, my friends are used to me and the neighbours already think I am weird, but harmless. Or so they think. (I smiled as I wrote that last sentence.)

I fully believe that being a frequent smiler has made my life better and given me good luck. But don't take my word for it. Science backs up my experience.

The simple act of smiling releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin in the brain. These little guys can help fight off the feeling of stress, relax your body, provide pain relief, lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and act as a mood lifter. Or, to put it in less scientific terms, smiling can make you feel good!

It also makes you look good. My partner Ira tells me I look 20 years younger when I smile - even though smiles bring out all the lines in this not so young face of mine. And it's not just me who looks good. The Face Research Laboratory (yes, there really is such an institute!) at the University of Aberdeen ran a study to see how smiling affected attractiveness. They found that men and women were far more attracted to images of people smiling and making eye contact than people looking less cheerful. So, if you want to look good, smile and look people in the eye. And, if you are on Tinder or the like, be sure to use a picture of you smiling and looking into the camera lens.


Smile with Benefits

I've certainly found that smiling a lot brings benefits. When I approach a cashier in a shop anywhere in the world, I almost always smile and I almost always get friendly service, even when I do not speak the local language. The Brussels expat community often complains about unfriendly service in shops and restaurants in the city. I've almost inevitably received good service and nice smiles from the people I interact with in shops and restaurants.

I suspect people anticipating poor service approach shop staff with a serious face. I prefer to approach with a smiling face.


Hear Me Smile

Interestingly, you do not even need to see a smile to sense it. You can also hear it. I've known this for years. When I ran a small company in Bangkok, I insisted that staff smile when they answered the phones. This made them sound more positive and friendly. Fortunately, in Thailand (then promoting itself as the "Land of Smiles"), getting people to smile was easy.

Research not only backs this up, but indicates that when you hear a smile, you are likely to respond with a smile. So, don't just smile in the shops. Smile when you answer the telephone and smile when you make a call. I've done this for years and, if I have to make a difficult phone call, I'll consciously smile as soon as I've punched the number into my telephone. It helps.

There is another reason I smile a lot. Years ago, I saw an older comedian being interview on television. I noticed that lines that marked the comedians face suggested a smile and when he actually smiled, the lines actually made his face light up. And, I thought, I want to be like that when I get old. So many old people's faces settle into scowls. I'd much rather mine settled into a smile.

Fortunately, now that I am getting a wee bit older, I think my face is going that way.


Fake It Till You Don't Make It

It has long been believed that, even if you are not happy, if you force yourself to smile, you will soon feel happier. Sadly, research suggests that this is not true. At best, faking a smile might make us feel a tiny bit happier. But, probably not.

So, while forcing a smile when answering the phone might make you sound happier, it won't necessarily make you feel happier, although if the person at the other end of the line has good news, it would probably cheer you up!

So, don't fake your smile. Instead, think of things that make you smile. There must be many. Thinking of my sons now and as children; of Ira; of the absurdities of life; of silly things I have done over the years; of good times with good friends; and many other things brings a smile to my face.

What makes you smile?




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