The Benefits Of Smiling In Tough Times

added on: March 25, 2020

Like other nations, we are in a crisis. Most of us have never been exposed to a pandemic (defined as a global outbreak of a disease), so this is scary and stressful. When you add financial uncertainty and the requirements to “shelter in place,” it’s all pretty overwhelming.

Like other health crises, economic downturns, and times of nationwide strife, we will get through this. Deep down, I think we all know that, but it’s challenging to focus on getting “back to normal” when so much uncertainty looms.

Therefore, I thought it may be helpful to share a few tips that can help you feel better during your “stuck inside” time. Staying in good shape, physically and mentally, will help us all emerge from this in ready-to-go shape!

First of all – smile! Don’t feel like it? Then fake a smile. Really!

Research has shown that smiling, even a fake one, causes the brain to release endorphins. These are brain chemicals that activate a “feel good” state. Set your timer on your phone to remind you to smile every half hour and you’ll likely sense your mood improving after a few hours.

In addition to improving your own mood, your smile will likely help others around you to feel better, too.

In one study, social psychologists at the University of Wisconsin found that people mimic the facial expressions of others, whether they know it or not. This has been found to be part of human emotions that enable us to “read” others.

As one of the authors shares in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, “You reflect on your emotional feelings and then you generate some sort of recognition judgment, and the most important thing that results is that you take the appropriate action–you approach the person or you avoid the person.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160211140428.htm

Thus, when we smile at others, it can cause them to smile also, even unintentionally. Think of how you might smile at a baby, and often get a smile back.

And, if you’re using your inside time to binge watch episodes of Breaking Bad or Westworld, reconsider your choices of viewing time for something more upbeat. Comedies are terrific ways to generate smiles, whether stand ups, movies, or TV shows you’re catching up on. For me, reruns of Big Bang Theory or stand-up specials with Jim Gaffigan bring easy laughs and are great ways to release tension and stress.

Another feel-good tip is to stay social. While “distancing” is important, walking the neighborhood and waving at neighbors or sending pictures from your phone to friends or relatives are ways we can feel better connected.

Share your creative ways of staying busy with others, too. A friend described how her book club is continuing to “meet” through video conferencing. This sense of ‘normalcy’ has helped them be more positive and look forward to their next get-togethers.

A great way to “feel” like smiling, too, is through exercise. Staying active and fit throughout this time is a challenge (especially when the frig is always lurking in the background!). There are a number of advantages to exercise.

According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity stimulates brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious. Other benefits to physical activity are a boost to energy, weight control and better sleep.

(https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389)

I once heard: Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere. Throughout the centuries, our world has endured many challenges and risen from the storms. Stay positive, for your own well-being and those around you.

And finally, stick with a committed oral hygiene regimen. This will play an important role in keeping a healthy routine and minimize the risks of developing dental problems.

My staff and I are sending love, prayers and smiles your way!