Yesterday I went for my regular run and it just wasn’t my day. My body was just physically exhausted from the week, the weather was extremely cold, I didn’t warm up very well, slept horrible the night before but needed to make sure I got out to do my physical exercise. There is a public park right next to my house which is a normal spot for me to run a few miles and as I was on my 3rd mile, there was a father with his little daughter approaching in the far distance. As we crossed paths the little girl and I made eye contact and she smiled at me (probably because I was so tired and looked like a three toed sloth having a seizure as I was trying to complete my exercise) but that simple genuine gesture actually had a remarkable effect on me. It made me smile back. It made me smile and I immediately had this boost of energy that affected my physical ability to continue running and finish my last mile strong.
As I was finishing up my run, I couldn’t help but think how just one simple smile, from someone who I had no idea who she was, could have such a positive impact not only mentally but with my physical ability. I further thought about this feeling and remembered the first organized run I did (The Torchlight Parade Run) and how great I felt because I remembered all kids who lined the course to stick their hands out for high fives with such happiness and energy. The effect of their positive presence made me run in a way where I was able to easily complete the course, wasn’t tired and happy after running 5 straight miles. I did some research on the topic and found some great studies on the power of smiling.
First, this Ted talk is a great summary of how a simple smile can have such a positive effect not only for your own ability, but for others.
Ron Gutman starts this talk by talking about how ever since he was a kid, always wanted to be a superhero that made everyone happy (he is my idol now). This childhood dream lead his career to studying the science of happiness and now has found his key to unlocking his superpower of making others happy, smiling.
Some quick facts his research has presented:
1. 1 smile can produce the same amount of brain stimulation as up to 2000 bars of chocolate (chocolate being a proven pleasure inducer)
2. 1 smile can be as stimulating as receiving $25,627.43 (British study which said 16000 GBP)
3. Smiling can help reduce level of stress enhancing hormones and increase the level of mood enhancing hormones and reduce overall blood pressure
4. Penn state study: when you smile you appear more likable courteous and more competent
Note if you are smiling or not. Most likely, you are smiling or have some type of positive facial response. Smiles are actually evolutionary contagious and we have a natural instinct to mimic the emotions we see (it’s called emotional contagion) so we can better understand the emotions of the people we are looking at. Thus, when people mimic your positive emotions, they too feel the benefits of the facts listed above.
Have you ever noticed that when a baby is in the room, people always tend to gravitate and watch whatever the child is doing? A big reason is the positive feeling people get when around a child. Children on average smile up to 400 times per day. Compare that to how 1/3 of the population smile less than 20 times per day and how 14% of the population smile less than 5 times per day. Imagine how much positive impact you are missing out on if you are a part of that 14% that only smiles less than 5 times a day? Imagine if you smiled as much as a child in the teams you work with, you would have your team feeling like $10,000,000! (child smiles 400 per day x feeling of receiving $25,000 = feeling of receiving $10MIL! well, kind of… 🙂 )
Ron Gutman noted how he realized that the people with the real superpowers to make everyone around them happy were children and just like the little girl who had a tremendous affect on me while running, we should all aspire to share this simple superpower with others around us. Don’t forget to smile! 🙂