Having lived approximately half of my adult life amongst other cultures on other continents, I became accustomed to greeting everyone I encountered according to their respective, varied customs. However, what these greetings all had in common was a true and generous smile. To venture into a shop or to simply pass one on the street without extending such a greeting was not only rude but often insulting!

Not so here in the U.S. Courtesies of the past appear no longer in vogue, and people go about their business without much concern for others. There are of course, exceptions, and I don’t believe that individuals are necessarily, purposely, being rude. However, working with the public on a daily basis and having read recent, local commentary about declining manners, I feel compelled to not only reflect the change I hope to see but to also write a short commentary to encourage others to do likewise!

And… if I were to choose one thing to encourage everyone to practice on a daily basis, it’s to SMILE! The old saying proves true; that smiling is contagious! Seriously (no pun intended), it’s scientifically proven! Research has also shown that smiling can make you appear younger, thinner, and actually increase your lifespan! No kidding! According to Wayne State University research (2010), pre-1950 major league baseball players who didn’t smile in photos lived and average of 72.9 years; whereas those who smiled broadly lived an average of nearly 80 years!

That may be due to the fact that not only does smiling boost mood by increasing endorphins in the brain, but (according to biochemists) smiling releases tension down to the cellular level! Conversely, stress is a contributing factor to virtually all physical illness; as well as viral infections from impaired immunity, allergies, asthma, and mental illness… So what’s the downside of dopamine and serotonin releases similar to eating 2,000 bars of chocolate? All-that-and-a (conjectural) box-of-chocolates from a simple smile that costs nothing and is calorie free! Even a forced smile, detached from fear or anger, can produce similar health effects.

Studies also suggest that others will consider you more courteous, competent, and likable when you smile, and that relationships will prove more successful. And research supports the concept of “mood migration”; that your smile causes a release of mood boosting chemicals in the brains of others, simultaneously uplifting the mood of whomever your smile graces! Expressing happiness with a simple smile causes others to smile back; scientifically substantiating that when you smile, the world smiles with you! …And you have a beautiful smile!

Barbara Hassan Retired RN/USAF; currently employed part-time as front desk staff at Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District,

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