“Smile at everyone you meet, the gift of life will then be yours to give” - Nachman of Bratslav
When was the last time someone smiled at you? How did it feel? How do you feel when you smile at others? Have you ever smiled at someone across a crowded room and felt as if you’ve shared a ‘moment’ that is precious?
“Smile more – you won’t regret it!” That’s the advice I give parents who are having challenges raising their children. The reason? When things go wrong and life feels tough, it is easy to forget to smile, but our children are nourished by our smiles. Here are a few things smiles communicate to them:
These are all messages that are important to convey to our children and to each other. A smile signals acceptance from one heart to another – an expression of the recognition of the Inherent Worth of someone else and it is this Inherent Worth that is so crucial to mental health. That’s why I recommend that parents smile at everyone – even the parking attendant who is about to give you a ticket or the pan-handler. That way your children will notice that you are consistent in demonstrating that everyone has equal Inherent Worth.
When we smile we release happy hormones (endorphines) that give us a sense of well-being, and we reduce cortisol, adrenaline and even blood pressure. Challenge every member of your family to increase their smile volume and frequency for one day and report back about how those days went. I can guarantee that you’ll all be reporting a pretty good day.
In his TED talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling”, Ron Gutman states that a smile stimulates the same feel good brain activity level as 2,000 chocolate bars (which wouldn’t feel so good if you ate them all at once) or being handed $25,000 in cash. That’s amazing, considering how easily available, cost free, quick and silent smiling is.
Several years ago, I attended a “Courage to Come Back” awards ceremony. One of the recipients was a woman who had been living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. She was feeling completely hopeless and helpless until one day, a passerby smiled at her. That smile led to a friendship and that friendship allowed her to recover her sense of dignity, get off the street and gain employment. In a very real sense, that smile gave her life – by reminding her of her Inherent Worth.
In popular parlance, we associate smiles with light: “He flashed his biggest smile” or “Her smile lit up her face”. Smiles light up our days and brighten our lives so put a smiley face sticker on your cell phone to remind you to keep on smiling – you have no idea how many lives you might save and you’ll feel great in the process!
“I’ll never understand all the good that a single smile can accomplish.”
- Mother Theresa
I’m passionate about prevention of substance abuse, depression, bullying, and suicide in teens, and I’ve chosen to spend my time helping parents to raise resilient, bully-proof, addiction-free kids. I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you.