What is in a Smile?

They say that three’s a charm. This is my third attempt to make this post.  It helps me prove the point of the post, though.  Read on…

I wanted to make a short entry about the importance of smiling.  Figuring the best place to start was with some facts I decided to get the specifics about smiles.  What I wanted to find out is how many muscles it takes to smile.  You know the old adage about smiling taking fewer muscles than frowning? Well, it turns out that is bunk. I hate to upset all those motivational speakers, but, it just ain’t true.

The human face has 43 muscles.  Don’t ask me why there is an odd number for a symmetrical face. To add to the confusion, there were other numbers referenced, but 43 seems to be the most common so I’m going with it.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

The real issue is defining what a smile or frown really is.  Is it a slight curl at the edge of the mouth? Is it an elegant curve of the lips? Is it a full toothy expression? They all fit the description and when you see one version or another you know if people are smiling or not.

I thought about it a bit and realized that the face is a complex system of muscles. In any complex system you can’t just change one thing. From that view, any smile or frown is going to use all the muscles to some extent or another. A smile will use those muscles differently than a frown, but they all come into play.  I smiled when I had that idea. Then another idea hit me.

I’m a runner.  I know that muscles need to be exercised and when you start working them they get sore.  How often have you heard people say that they had had such a good time the night before that their muscles ached from laughing so much?  If you don’t smile often, then that actually might happen.  Same with frowning, but you don’t hear people talking about muscle aches from too much frowning.  Usually, they are bitching about something else.

So, it’s not about the muscles.  It is about the smile.  In all its varieties. Smiles are powerful.  Smiles are healthy. Smiles make other people feel better.

That’s when I remembered something from my first full time job after college.  I worked for ATT when it was a monopoly and they were the only ones who controlled 800 numbers. There was a job, a Phone Power Specialist, whose focus was on how to use 800 and toll numbers most effectively.  Our rep was Johnny Smith and he used to tell the call center agents he trained to smile when they talked to customers.  He said “They can hear your smile.”  I loved that line.  And it is true.

Even today, when we type to each other instead of talking, if I smile while I type, like I am now, the words that enter the screen are more positive and paced with greater excitement.

So, here’s your assignment.  Sometime during the day today you will be faced with having to deal with angst or anger or frustration (especially you parents). When you feel that well up in your mind, take a breath, stand with good posture and smile.  It just has to be a little bit of a grin. When you do, the issue will seem to take on a different face. You’ll be able to handle it better and the people around you will think you have your shit together even if you don’t. That ‘s what I did after the second attempt to make this posting work ended up with a blank screen!

Smiling is natural to me. I am not a comedian, but I love to twist reality for my own fun and pleasure. People seem to like my company and I think it is because I smile and create smiles. I am an introvert and my smile (facial and vocal) has been my greatest weapon for dealing with some of the side effects of introversion. People like to see you smile when you are their leader. If you do, they feel better.  Maybe that’s why we fear aliens.  They don’t smile much.

Give me this example. Life is hard work. We were evolved to be hard workers. There is joy in a job well done. When I am on a long run and it starts to feel like it is more of a workout, I smile.  When I do my form adjusts to normal, my stride evens out and the road disappears. I remember the pure joy of movement even though I am running long miles.

Life may be hard work, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun.

Keep smiling! Run Free!

NOTE: no emoticons were harmed in the creation of this post.

4 thoughts on “What is in a Smile?

  1. Smiles are secrets too well kept. They have amazing power.Once after yet another relocation and another desolate time, as I walked to work each morning in a huge city where I knew no one, I determined I would smile genuinely (like D Savannah is referring to above) at those I passed. One morning I passed a young man 20 years my junior and smiled warmly at him. As he passed by my shoulder, he said in a voice filled with awe, “What a beautiful smile.” There was no lechery, no dishonesty involved. Just two people willing to stand completely open in one another’s company. I don’t know about him, but here it is 22 years later and the sweetness of that moment is as alive now as then. Smiles are open doors to the sublime. Great blog post JL.

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