In Britain there is a tradition of smiling as a way of covering negative feelings. Perhaps it’s been influenced by the saying ‘Smile and the world smiles with you. Cry and you cry alone’. When he was a young boy, if my husband was looking a bit glum, his father would chastise him and say ‘Big smile now’. So he’d feel compelled to smile even though he didn’t feel like it. Over the years, I’ve listened to some real horror stories from clients. Mostly told through a big cover-up smile.
Other cultures and smiling
Maybe that’s why some people from other European countries are a bit suspicious of our constant smiles. They probably suspect that a lot of them are false and it leads to a sense of mistrust, because they’re not quite sure where we’re coming from!
Here in France people often aren’t always so smiley upon first meeting. In fact they can seem a bit aloof. However once they have seen you a couple of times it changes and their genuine warmth shines through. Equally there have been a few occasions where someone has been looking at me, I’ve just smiled at them and they’ve smiled back. It doesn’t always work but it’s usually worth doing. After all as I’ve always said ‘a smile is an international language’. Now I’m putting it to the test!
So is smiling good for your health?
Well the answer is yes, even if you sometimes fake it. But it has to be a broad smile that creases the corners of your eyes (otherwise known as crow’s feet). The research first done in the 19th Century by French neurologist Duchenne, showed that the crow’s feet smile actually triggered a different chemical response in the brain and tricked the body into thinking it was feeling better.
He worked with two groups of depressed patients and the group who smiled as described, began to show symptoms of improvement. The reason being that the body doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction. By the way if you just do a smile which moves the mouth but not the eyes, it doesn’t work.
A smile costs nothing
So these words are about the value of a smile. Some years ago I read it out during a BBC interview and afterwards they were inundated with calls asking for a copy. It obviously just touched a spot then and I hope it does the same for you today.