In our fast-paced world where we have more to do than time to do it and the pace of everything is increasing, we’re all looking for the magic potion that will make us simultaneously more productive and happier at work. Well, the magic potion exists, and it’s not a recent invention; in fact, it’s been around for as long as we have. And although it’s not a beverage, it does require you to use your mouth.
So what’s the simple action that will yield these sought-after benefits?
Sounds way to simple to be true, right? Well here’s the science behind it.
Every time you smile, you create a powerful chemical reaction. An article by Sarah Stevenson in Psychology Today explains how it works: “When you smile, neuropeptides that help reduce stress are released. These neuropeptides send messages to your entire body when you’re happy, excited, sad, or depressed. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face. This relaxes your body and can also lower your blood pressure and heart rate.”
Smiling shouldn’t feel difficult or foreign. It’s a simple biological reflex. Jeff Guo in his piece in the Independent tells us, “Babies practice smiling as soon as they are born, their bodies rehearsing this essential human gesture.” And Ron Gutman in his TED Talk adds that “babies are actually born smiling.”
Fake It ‘Til You Feel It
In his Forbes post “Why Faking a Smile is Good,” Roger Dooley says, “Pasting a smile on your face, even if it is inauthentic, can improve your mood and reduce stress. We think of our face as reflecting our internal emotions, but that linkage works both ways – we can change our emotional state by altering our facial expression.”
Build Stronger Relationships
Relationships are the currency of business, and they’re built on trust. In a paper published in the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine, K. Schmidt of the University of Pittsburgh says, “Facial attractiveness is associated with a variety of positive social characteristics including trustworthiness. Variations in smiling have likewise been linked with positive judgments of trustworthiness.” Ron Gutman’s TED Talk cited a Penn State Study that showed “when we smile we not only appear more likable and courteous, but we’re actually perceived to be more competent.”
Improve Your Productivity
In his article “Seven Ways Smiling Makes You More Productive,” Chris Bailey cites a study from the Cognition & Emotion Journal, which found that “participants who wore Duchenne smiles were able to manage their attention better and were better able to step back from the work they were doing to focus on the bigger picture.”
The benefits of putting a grin on your face at the office don’t begin and end with a mood boost; that dose of happiness can help make you a more productive employee as well. In 2010, a team of economic researchers found that happiness has a significant and causal effect on productivity in the workplace. And just as the positive emotions prove invigorating, negative ones are equally draining.
Smile For The Camera
Smiling works in the two-dimensional world of pictures too. In an article in Psychology Today, Wendy Patrick, Ph.D., says, “Good photographs are important communication enhancers during the initial information-gathering phase of a relationship. When choosing pictures for an online profile, consider the impact of selecting photographs depicting a neutral expression, versus pictures showing positive emotion—such as smiling or laughing.” When it comes to LinkedIn profiles, the headshots that feature beaming smiles come from professionals in the fields of health, fitness, wellness, HR, recruiting and healthcare, according to a study on LinkedIn headshots. Dr. Patrick adds, “Apparently, your photo selection can quickly define your online desirability—or lack thereof. Even if you are incredibly handsome, a straight-faced photo might look more like a mug shot than a glamour shot.” Clare Jones, Founder of Clare Jones London, has some advice for showing that perfect smile in your pics. “Close your eyes a couple of seconds before you know the picture will be taken, then open them and slowly draw up the corners of your mouth. This can help to offset nerves and reset your state.”
Create Contentment Contagion
Here’s the extra bonus: Smiles are contagious. In the article “The Mirror Neuron Revolution: Explaining What Makes Humans Social” in Scientific American, Neuroscientist Marco Icaboni says, “The way mirror neurons likely let us understand others is by providing some kind of inner imitation of the actions of other people, which in turn leads us to simulate the intentions and emotions associated with those actions.” You’ve likely noticed that when someone enters the elevator you’re on, if you smile at them, they’ll likely smile back. “When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile. I don’t need to make any inference on what you are feeling, I experience immediately and effortlessly (in a milder form, of course) what you are experiencing.”
Make It Happen
Convinced that smiling is your magic potion for success and happiness but concerned that your busy schedule will distract you from taking action? No worries, there’s an app for that. The Stress Coach’s CalmCast app has a mindfulness reminder feature with options like “Take a Break,” “Stretch,” and yes, “Smile!” So download the app, set the reminder, and watch your mood (and the moods of those around you) elevate.