THE POWER OF A SMILE
The power of a gun can kill and the power of fire can burn
The power of wind can chill and the power of a mind can learn
The power of anger can rage inside until it tears you apart
But the power of a smile, especially yours, can heal a frozen heart
– Tupac Shakur
These days, with everyone wearing a mask, I’m really missing the smiles.
I miss giving them and I miss receiving them. I’m a believer in smiling at strangers, just because. I’m a believer that a smile can change a person’s day. Smiles are good for everyone, the giver and the receiver. A smile can help you feel a sense of community and connectedness despite any challenges you may be facing. It signals you’re not in this alone.
It makes me feel especially good when I see someone looking sad or lonely and I smile at them and see their face change, even if it’s just for that moment, and they smile back at me. We both get a boost of serotonin – also known as the happy hormone.
Smiles create a sense of well-being and can lift your spirit and the spirit of those around you. Have you ever been angry and then someone comes along with a huge smile and it gives you a little hit of happy and makes you want to smile too? When someone smiles at you, it’s natural to return the gesture and then you get a boost of serotonin too. Smiles are contagious.
We can’t let a mask take away our humanity, we have to find new ways to acknowledge our fellow citizens as we pass them on the street, in stores, elevators, buses, etc.
I found myself widening my eyes and raising my eyebrows as a way of acknowledging my fellow man. I also tried exaggerating my smile to engage the muscles around my eyes, you know the ones that give you crow’s feet, hoping they can somehow see my attempt to smile at them through my mask. Of course, none of that works when I have sunglasses on.
So that brings me to the nod. It’s more of a dip of my head than a full-on nod. It only takes a second but it makes me feel a connection again that I’m missing from the smile, especially when I get the nod back.
So, until our masks come off, maybe we can all find some generosity in our hearts to offer a slight nod to our fellow humans. We might find that the nod also has the power to uplift others, giving us all the gift of feeling connected and acknowledged.
I should mention, there is some positive that comes from wearing a mask, besides its protective quality, it makes it more difficult for us to make snap judgments about other people. There’s just not enough information showing for us to instantly categorize someone as we normally do. For the record, while we think we’re good at it, we’re actually pretty bad at reading faces. There was a study done that showed computers were much better than people at being able to correctly guess someone’s feelings, such as when a person is frustrated, happy, in pain or faking, etc. One study revealed that if you go into a meeting and someone isn’t smiling at you, you judge that person to be hostile. Well, if everyone is wearing a mask, we’ll no longer be able to use their smile or lack of to judge someone or misjudge them.
Bonus, I see masks being the new swag bag gifts, that is, when we get back to group gatherings.
I’ll be out there giving the nod, I hope it’s as contagious as the smile.