"Fake it till you make it" and "grin and bear it" often are mantras repeated over and over again during stressful situations. Those mantras seem to be more of a "tough love" approach than real advice, but there may just be some truth to these phrases when you find yourself stressed out.
When is the last time you smiled? What was the situation? How does smiling make you feel? These questions are important to help us better understand the significance and importance smiling plays in our everyday lives. After taking a look at a number of studies focused on smiling, research says it takes on average 12 muscles to smile. That may not seem like a lot but the results that come from that smile are significant...especially when you are feeling stressed.
There might be as many as 50 different kinds of smiles, yet the underlying question is whether or not a smile can genuinely help you when you are feeling stressed. In a study titled, "Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response" by Tart L. Kraft and Sara D. Pressman, one of the important conclusions they discovered was that smiling had an impact in lowering heart rates during stress recovery. Since this is the first study of its type, it's a little premature to make this the end all be all but it does give a scientific insight on the importance of smiling.
For those that have seen and felt the power of a smile (which is hopefully all of us), no science is needed to know that smiling can have a positive impact. Even if that smile might not be as genuine or real as it could be, the very act of smiling can play a key role when you feel stressed.
Even in difficult situations, the power of a smile can make quite a difference. Think about it: smiling makes you more real and opens you up, smiling can actually create a feeling of trust and respect for you and others, a smile can create a positive flow of energy throughout your body, and smiling makes you feel happier. These are all things you can feel personally, but what about the impact you might not notice?
You may never know all the impacts that your smile might have during a stressful time. There may be someone who is going through a less stressful situation than yours but when they see your smile, it provides them the opportunity to self-reflect. That self-reflection will often lead them to finding the positives in their situation as they have seen you and your example, all from your smile.
Okay, if that little header doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will. Let's be honest, this is not about how you actually, physically smile, this is about how you can smile during those stressful times. Here are some ways that might help:
Pull out an old photo of yourself, preferably one where you were acting goofy or at a minimum had a big smile, reflect upon that time
Watch, listen, or read an inspirational story and see what you might able to learn to help you
Tell a joke to a friend
Read the comics in the newspaper (paper or online version:)
If all else fails, there is a pretty sure-fire way to help you or anyone generate a smile in almost any situation. This is one that I learned many years ago and have used often. I have also taught others to use it and they have reported back that it works. Simply find a mirror and while staring at yourself, say the words "I am happy", "I am happy", "I am happy." Often by the second or third time you will be smiling. Now, if you do this in a public place, there is no question someone will be smiling when they see you doing this. There is something very powerful about our subconscious mind and when we take that time to focus on ourselves and tell ourselves how we are feeling, it seems to help the situation.
In a time when people are quick to judge, slow to forgive, and seem to dwell on what is wrong in the world, I must take this opportunity to confess that for all those years my mom told me to "fake it till I make it" and I thought she was crazy, I was wrong and she was right. I have learned from her that a smile can change lives in so many wonderful ways so mom, this smile is for you :).
Seth Saunders is an executive business consultant and leadership coach. Seth has been married 20 years to his amazing wife, Amber, and is the proud father of three wonderful sons. He is passionate about helping others succeed.