Thursday, June 02, 2011

If Your Happy and You Know It, Tell Your Face

I once bought a book based solely on the cover. I realize that people will say not to do that, but I did it anyway. I also quickly figured out why the old adage to not judge a book by the cover is so true after reading the first few pages of my newly acquired Harlequin Romance novel.

photo by Ario
Millions of dollars are spent each and every year on book covers. Marketing on book covers could mean the difference between a New York Time’s bestseller and a book selling for $2 the clearance shelf.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using this space to tell millions of readers of this column how to get their lives back, or at least how I rediscovered my own life. This week I want to continue with my thoughts with a look at the classic smile.

Just like buying a book, sometimes we are judged based on our cover. Sometimes, I’m afraid that we even judge ourselves based on our “cover”, our smile. The good news is, unlike a book on the clearance shelf, we can change our cover to improve our lives.

That’s all because the smile is a powerful thing.

A University of California Berkley study looked at photos from a high school yearbook and tried to measure their success throughout life just based on how a photo looked.

According to Ron Gutman, who was part of the study, “by measuring their student smiles, researchers were able to predict how fulfilling and long-lasting a subject’s marriage will be, how well she would score on standardized tests of well-being and how inspiring she would be to others.”

Gutman pointed to another study in 2010 at Wayne State University, where researchers did a similar study of baseball cards. Researchers found that the span of a player’s smile related to his actual life span.

“Players who didn’t smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, where players with beaming smiles lived an average of almost 80 years,” Gutman said.

That seems a little nuts, but I believe it happens for two reasons: 1) because we feel better when we smile. 2) because others see us differently when we smile.

Smiling, while a simple act, seems to automatically elevate a person’s mood. It’s hard for me to be mad when I smile. You would probably find that true too.

And I don’t know about you, but I seem to be more drawn to people who smile. If a cashier at the store has a mopey frown on their face, I’m more likely to move to another line or at least not engage that person like I might someone who is smiling.

Being happy has got to extend a person’s life, if not by quantity than at least by quality. It’s a miserable existence to go through life without a smile.

I haven’t always been a smiling person. When I look back at my school year photos I see a kid with a half smirk on his face (except for my third grade photo, which I swear was switched with some little red-headed buck-toothed kid and isn’t me to begin with). I was a pretty happy kid, I guess, but a lot of times my face didn’t show it.

Maybe that’s why the Mona Lisa is such an inspiring and mysterious painting. That little upturn to his lips reveals that something is going on in Mona’s life that we aren’t privy too and it drives us nuts. We want to know her secret.

A couple of years ago I needed to find out how to get the happiness of my childhood back.

So I read somewhere that smiling is an important part of the way we feel and how others feel about us. So I started to smile more.

I still don’t do it all the time. Sometimes when I’m out in public I seem to have a very intense look on my face, some might even call it a scowl. I can tell when other people catch me with my scowl because they look at me different. I’m sure they are wondering, “why is that guy so angry? Is it because he listens to too much Rush Limbaugh? Why are his shoes untied? Why is his hair so messed up like that? Why doesn’t he get that mustard stain off his shirt?” You know, those types of questions.

It’s those looks that remind me that I need to soften the face, relax my lips and smile.

As you can tell from my column mug shot, I sometimes still have more of a smirk than a full-out smile. But I smile.

You try it. It feels pretty good. See you just smiled right there didn’t you?

I think all my readers should go around for the next 30 days or so and smile every chance you get. Smile at a baby. Smile at a playing dog. Smile at a person who isn’t smiling. Smile at Rush Limbaugh. Whatever the situation, smile. That would be millions of people out there making a difference (Editor’s note: Or at least a dozen or so).

It will probably make you feel better immediately. And people will think you must be a happy, successful individual or you wouldn’t be smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

When people look at me, I want them to see a person that enjoys life, likes to be happy and doesn’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.

A smile could add years to your life. And if it doesn’t, it will surely add life to your years. 

To read more of Rodney Hays’ humor, check out his blog at him on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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