Share Your Smile
We have become accustomed to reading people by their body language and facial expressions, including smiles, before speaking a word. Now we wear face masks and keep a regulated distance from those with whom we communicate. Our inflections and the power of lip-reading may be lost, and intentions misinterpreted. Our new usual (or “normal” if you prefer) through which we still need to function sometimes feels like a wall between us, and communications strained.
The universal language of smiling puts others at ease, sharing an act of positivity, and in some cases, love between people. Researchers have studied smiles, their types and meaning, and have subjective scales to measure happiness. We have all read about or studied positive psychology, those constructive aspects of the human condition, those strengths, attitudes, and perspectives that allow us to flourish. Without an external smile, we face another dilemma in these times riddled with daily additions to the ‘how do I deal with this’ pile.
How do we share a hidden smile?
We go inside. An inner smile is far more pure and innocent, without pretense, genuine, and caring. With facial expressions obscured, we move to a deeper place that is not visible or immediately obvious. During these times, we have the opportunity to embrace the importance of self-care and adopting or boosting an attitude of gratitude.
Studies have shown that attitudes of gratitude improve our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Adopting those attitudes (thank you, Dr. Hans Selye) positively affects our stress response. As we endure months of isolation and changes to our personal and professional lives and practices, we can benefit by enhancing this particular tool.
How do we practice an attitude of gratitude?
One of my favorite exercises is Dr. Martin Seligman’s “Three Blessings Exercise.” At the end of each day (and you may journal these through a “gratitude journal”), you review three things that have gone well and why. Those who incorporate this activity into daily life may find themselves looking throughout the day for those three things to self-report. Looking at the world through more optimistic eyes may soften perspectives and reflect in a kinder pair of eyes peering above masks.
Other activities are to share with the person you are with (or a significant other) three things you are grateful for in this moment. Acknowledge what you have accomplished this past year and what you have planned. Offer this same acknowledgment to your significant other, family, friends, and coworkers.
The idea is to change your mindset, and perhaps your behaviors, toward becoming more grateful and satisfied with your life, attitude, and actions. As you do, watch your inner smile become more warm and genuine. Daily share your inner smile, your smile from within, with others. Some days it will shine brighter; some days, it will seek the warmth of others. We are all pioneers on this journey; please try to remember those things, however small, for which you are grateful and acknowledge them every day.
Then share your hidden smile.
Sherry Lynn Jones, RN, EdD, MS, BCETS