Your Very First Smile

Did you know that before you were even born you practiced the art of smiling? It’s true: the smile reflex begins in the womb and lasts until you’re about two months old. From then on, the smiles on your face are in response to things that make you happy. Those early smiles prepared you to communicate with your parents and helped you win their affection and attention. In short, smiles helped you get what you wanted in this world.

After all, is there anything cuter than a baby smiling? And is there anything more delightful you can do besides making a baby smile? That’s worth remembering because smiling is a key part of your core identity. You came into this world with the ability to smile, and it was one of the first communication skills you used.

The Recipe for a Genuine Smile

An authentic smile involves a minimum of three things:

  1. It begins with positive emotion. This essential smile ingredient can’t be seen outwardly but if it’s strong enough, then you cannot suppress the smile it sparks. Here’s a list of some positive emotions: satisfaction, pride, appreciation, friendliness, love, trust, contentment, relief, amusement, delight, elation, excitement, interest, surprise, optimism, and hope. Did reading that list begin to spark a little bit of a smile?

  2. The smile manifests physically: the corners of your mouth begin to pull outward. Try doing that now. Let the muscles in your cheeks pull the corners of your mouth outward and a little upward in the direction of your ears. A wide smile will probably cause your jaw to relax, dropping a little and letting your teeth add sparkle.

  3. Your eyes get in on the action.  Now let the windows of your soul come to the smile party. When you smile with your eyes, the muscles in their outside corners squeeze a little, creating smile lines that radiate like a sunburst (smileburst?) spreading further and further outward.

Can You Fake It ‘Till You Make It?

Yes, you can. While fake smiles fool no one because they only activate the corners of the mouth, you can manufacture a real smile. An easy way to do so is to reverse engineer the recipe above. If you begin your smile with your eyes this time, almost immediately the corners of your mouth will respond and join in to keep the smile going. It’s likely that you’ll begin to feel a small hint of one or more of those positive emotions begin to grow. Then your smile will self-reinforce and may even amplify itself.

Do intentionally generated smiles bring the same benefits as spontaneous ones? Absolutely! Just give them enough time to shine and they will connect to the positive emotions they impart. The spark of a smile can become a sparkling smile.