2018-02-07 / Editorials

Smile, be happy!

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

You’ve all heard the expression, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

It seems unlikely that anyone would question the inherent wisdom behind that statement, because we’ve all seen it in action. But now we have scientific proof. A paper published recently in a British medical journal concludes that smiling is contagious and that the transfer of happiness brought on by the smile is good for up to a year.

I’m suspicious of that last part. About the only way I could envision a smile making me happy for a year was if it was Sandra Bullock smiling at me. But you can’t argue in the face of scientific fact, so I guess it must be true.

The story didn’t say, but I certainly wonder how much money the researchers got to come to the same self-evident conclusion that anyone who’s ever smiled at someone else has long known.

If you don’t believe that smiling is contagious, give it a try. The next time you’re pushing the buggy up and down the aisles of the grocery store, smile at the people you pass. Nearly every one of them will smile back. I guarantee it.

Of course, there will always be one miserable old soul who won’t smile. In fact, she will glare at you as if you were about to reach into her cart and steal her Froot Loops.

This is where the inverse of the “smiling is contagious” theory comes into play. Being around grouchy people tends to make you grouchy, too. No one has paid me any money to conduct a study on this, mind you, so it’s just a hypothesis. But if you have a spare million dollars you’d like to invest in such a study, I’ll be happy to get right on it.

I suspect that when Mrs. Grouch fails to smile at you in the grocery store, you’ll be ticked off. I suspect you’ll want to bop her in the head with the turkey leg you just picked up in the meat department.

You should fight that urge, because it’s unlikely that the policeman who arrives to arrest you for assault with a delicious weapon will be smiling, either.

And there’s more. The study goes on to say that it’s not just smiles, but a person’s overall happiness quotient that is contagious. Again, this is hardly what we in the journalism biz would call “breaking news.”

We know that we like to be around people who make us happy, and we cringe when we have to hang out with people who are unhappy, like the woman at the grocery store.

Being happy also brings other benefits, the study says, including an effect on your immune system so that you produce fewer stress hormones.

There is this woman I’ve known for many years, and I’ve never seen her smile. I don’t know if she’s afraid her face will break or if she’s really just made a conscious effort to be miserable.

But there she is, probably with so many stress hormones built up in her system that there’s now a nationwide shortage of the little buggers.

Still, the grouches notwithstanding, we should all strive to smile more. And it doesn’t cost anything. All you have to do is find someone and smile at them. How simple, yet how rewarding. You bring some happiness into someone else’s life and make yourself healthier at the same time.

So get to it, folks. Turn that frown upside down.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch. clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/ mitch.

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