Happiness in Retirement — The Power of a Smile

“Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone” quote by Stanley Gordon West

I’ve always been a smiler. Smiling is a natural reaction for me. I smile at my husband.  I smile when I see my family, especially my grand-daughter.  I smile when I talk to my cats.  I smile when I’m on the telephone. I smile at myself in the mirror when I brush my teeth.  I smile when I greet my friends and when I meet new people.

Smiles are universally understood as a form of communication. Across cultures a smile is generally interpreted as an indicator of happiness, joy and satisfaction. Smiles help to build trust among people.

When you meet a stranger and greet him or her with a smile, you’ll likely get a smile in return because there’s something about a smiling person that is contagious. It’s an infectious response.

Feelings of happiness increase when you smile. It’s hard to feel despondent or hurt or sorry for yourself when smiling.  Smiling can make your own mood brighter. When you smile, you feel better.

 Smiles from Babies

Smiles are one of the first social responses looked for in babies.

My grand daughter's smile
My grand daughter’s smile

Sometime between 8 and 12 weeks of age, babies begin to respond to human voices with toothless grins that delight moms and dads and grandparents.

Their positive responses encourage more smiles and reciprocal social interaction begins.  Everyone’s happiness increases.

Animals smile too

Dog owners know that dogs smile to show their happiness. There’s something about a happy dog that makes people happy.

When I was young, I had a mongrel dog named Rags.   Rags smiled all the time.  She greeted everyone with her panting tongue and wagging tail. There was never a  doubt that Rags was happy to see me when I came home.  I learned from Rags.  She always lifted my moods when she gave me her dog smile.

One of my two cats sometimes wears a smile as she grooms herself but usually cats are too self-absorbed for smiling.

Fake Smiles and Genuine Smiles

People are often advised to ‘put on a smile’.  

In social situations a smile is a way to make an emotional connection and build rapport.  People are taught to greet each other with a firm handshake and a smile. Children are told to smile politely when given a gift or a compliment.

In such situations, the resulting smile may not be genuine. A forced smile is given because good manners or social norms require a smile.

Fake smiles are easy to spot by looking at the person’s eyes.  An authentic smile includes the eye muscles while a fake smile involves only the lower facial muscles around the mouth. 

Authentic smiles are more effective in eliciting a positive response. Most people understand a fake smile and react accordingly.

Is smiling a weakness?

Because smiles are usually interpreted as signs of approachability or like-ability, some people see a smile as a sign of weakness.  For them, a smile is construed as a means of giving away power.

A smile can also indicate nervousness, embarrassment or frustration, all of which are behaviours that have negative associations. In these situations, the smile will likely be a feigned smile to hide fear or anger or hurt feelings.

If smiling shows that you are happy and helps increase feelings of happiness, it stretches the imagination to consider a smile to be an indicator of weakness.

Louis Armstrong crooned “Oh when you’re smilin’, when you’re smilin’, the whole world smiles with you.”

Give someone a smile and a happy greeting and see if your day — and your retirement happiness — doesn’t improve.

4 Replies to “Happiness in Retirement — The Power of a Smile”

  1. Thank you for this lovely post. I’ll pass it on with a smile.

    1. Hi Pat, Thanks for the compliment. My wish for you is that a smile is returned every time you pass the post to someone else!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  2. Good post, Jeanette. A smile helps in everyday life in many ways. When speaking on a telephone the listener can hear if you’re smiling, even if the content of the discussion is unpleasant. When I was collecting debts for a large company my calls were more successful when I put a smile on my face and spoke in a pleasant voice. Smiling to oneself makes one feel better when one feels blue. Another famous song, by Nat King Cole if I’m not mistaken, says, “Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue,” and it works. Keep smiling!

    1. Hi Joy, In researching this post, I found several reference to the importance of smiling while speaking on the telephone. It’s interesting to know that our voices convey so much emotion and feeling.
      Be well,
      Jeanette

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