Thought #20. The power of an infectious grin.

Six o’clock in the morning and your alarm clock went off. Last night, you did not sleep a wink, tossing and turning all night long. You felt wretched by those nagging problems. A pile of things to do awaited you at work. On the radio, the weather forecast did not look promising. To top it all, you remembered that the car has broken down. Obviously, your patience was wearing thin at 7 a.m. and you were on the brink of a nervous breakdown. About to quickly abandon your apartment, wishing not to exist, thinking why on earth you are on the receiving end of life… Suddenly, you stumble upon the boy next door. A gentle and broad smile spreads over his face and your dismal day is over. The smile healing powers have emerged.

Smiling is also the universal language par excellence, a beautiful language shared by human beings, a gift from the gods and ultimately, a force to be reckoned with. However, all that glitters was not gold. According to a Scientific American column, the origin of grins and smiles goes back to our ancestors’ times. Through detailed observations of chimps and other primates, biologists and anthropologists have shown how baring one’s teeth denotes, in fact, an explicit threat or a show of unquestioned authority. Further investigation of ape’s smile has produced unexpected results: apparently, the display of a teeth-held grin is more a sign of submission than a show of power. The general consensus among experts is that it is precisely the submission trait what we have inherited.

Smiles and grins have been deeply ingrained in people since the advent of humanity. As any language, this one consists of carefully arranged building blocks; teeth, mouth, face and eyes are involved in the process of smiling. Luckily, evolution left its submissive character behind.

Thenceforth, we learned to combine those pieces to build a splendid array of expressive gestures. We can wear all kinds of smiles. An occasion may arise when you can wear a bright and broad smile because you are proud of something. You could also force a toothless one at your boss if he vetoed you taking any more time off. Just as revenge is sweet, a mocking smile or laughter might be sometimes pleasant. A flashed disarming smile could end up in hasty marriage. The most well-known method to convey an apology is certainly the apologetic one. A polite smile serves as an opening gambit in most speeches. An enigmatic smile may have puzzled you in the past. You should remember the reassuring smile that your parents used to give you. As you can imagine, this list would be never-ending.

One lesson about grinning and smiling is that despite all the beneficial effects, it is normally offered totally free of charge. Take advantage of this feature. Although you should always be dismissive of feigned or forced smiles (disavowal is, in this case, allowed), this must not prevent you from beginning each day with an infectious grin. Promise me!