When I was in high school, my English teacher introduced me to The Scarlet Letter. To be honest, I don't remember much of it. What I remember is the assignment she gave us: Choose a label we've been given in life, and physically wear it on ourselves for an entire day.
Guess what label I chose.
If RBF was a thing back then, I had it. I was told by many an adult, "You should smile a little more, Brittan" and "Hey, it wouldn't hurt to smile" and "Where's that nice smile?"
Through the course of several months, some good choices, some life-changing experiences, etc. etc. (story for another day), I rid myself of the dreaded ornery label and decided JOY was my course in life.
And I lived happily ever after.
And then some years passed and peaks and valleys and ebbs and flows...you know, that whole bit, and I woke up in January 2018 with a frown on my face. And I said to myself, "This just won't do."
So I set my sights high and decided February was my month for smiling. Now, I will admit that I did not succeed at the goal of smiling literally 24/7. But if I did, I would be perfect, and then what would I even do for next month's goal, right?
Here's what I learned from [attempting at] smiling 24/7 in February:
First of all, there are actual face muscles that atrophy if you don't use them to smile. Do not let that happen to you.
Second, my favorite time to choose to smile is walking around the store. In January, I would have walked around the store with my regular, average joe face on, basically avoiding people. But not in February, my friends! I walked around the store with a giant smile, and guess what! When people saw me, they would smile back. Pretty much every time, almost like magic.
My second favorite time to choose to smile is in the car. Just try it. I promise you'll love it.
Third, it's not actually appropriate to literally smile 24/7. Not everything is happy and worth smiling over, and that's okay.
Fourth, compared to the investment, the return on a smile is absurdly large. It takes almost zero time, very little effort, no money, and no special skill. Yet so many times it is just what someone needs to brighten their day, lift their spirits, and inspire them to do good. When you see someone smile at you, you naturally want to smile back. When you smile, your brain is like, "Whoa! I'm happy!" and then you smile more.
Have you heard about the importance of smiling at infants? Apparently when moms and dads smile at their babies, their brains literally develop into healthy, emotionally intelligent, strong little brains. Well guess what I've decided: Smiling is important for the development of adult brains, too. When we smile at each other, we connect and we open up, and we be ourselves.
I also like to smile at myself. One of my favorite things to do is smile at myself in the mirror right when I wake up. I look hilarious, so it's not that hard, and it starts the day off right.
I think we underestimate the impact something as simple as a smile can have.
February is over, but I know what I'm going to be doing in March.
"The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back."