Information In The Pause
We move quickly these days. Bending the space between this moment and the next. We are a culture that is constantly on the move, both physically and mentally. And while our overstimulated lives have us moving faster than ever it’s important to remember that speed isn’t always better. There’s information in the pause.
The pause of reflection that happens when you take a moment for yourself is the fuel that keeps you going. And without these pauses, and moments of connection, you’re on a fast track to burnout. It's important to stop once in a while.
And dare I say stop AND smile?!
In a smile there is connection, and in that connection, there is a pause. A brief moment where you are halted into the present moment. There is a direct line to pure connection with a lover, a friend, a family member, a stranger. Each one with their own textures. Every grin accompanied by a unique twinkle in the eyes. In a world that places value on getting things done with more speed and less heart it’s important to stall in the madness. Smiling is the quickest way to drop right in.
And while it may seem insignificant, it can actually change your world. Bold, I know… but let me explain.
How does this one brief exchange move hold up to such a grandiose statement? It seems ludicrous to imagine that smiling at a stranger could affect not only the way your day can go but build your happiness muscle to a more joyful life.
In the simple act of smiling you’re triggering a moment of reflection both to them and within yourself. And the best part? You can’t give without receiving or vice versa. When someone smiles at you it physically suppresses the control you have on your facial muscles making it (nearly) impossible not to return the favor. That’s huge! You literally can’t contain yourself from smiling back. And so the cycle of smiles begins.
We all want to be in this place. This magnetic spot of passing out smiles for no reason, free from attachment or need. Just pure joy. Because a smile from within is pure gold. It’s magnetic, mesmerizing and a bit mysterious. When someone is in this state you can’t help but gravitate towards them. Captivated by their shimmer, you’re drawn closer hoping some of that magic rubs off in your direction. And generally, it does. Because this happiness, this smile, this shared moment of connection is contagious. You can’t help but feel better (and happier) in their presence.
But what about the reverse? What if you’re not all sunshine and happiness on the inside? Can you force a smile and trick your mood? Turns out you can.
In a study conducted by Strack in 1988, he placed pencils in people’s mouths to test if forcing a frown and forcing a smile would still give the same ratings on the humor levels of a cartoon. The first group had pencils in their teeth, forcing a smile. The second had the pencil between their lips without touching their teeth. This forced the muscles to contract resulting in a frown. Strack hypothesized that the group that was in a forced smile would give higher humor ratings, which is exactly what happened. So there you have it! Just pop in a pencil when you’re feeling down. Kidding! Kind of.
When you smile from the outside in, versus the inside out, you are still strengthening the pathways to happiness. This is because of “self-directed neuroplasticity”. Neuroplasticity refers to the malleable nature of the brain and its forever ongoing process. The more you smile, the strong the positive reactions in your brain become, the more often you have a reason to smile, the larger the muscle becomes and (viola!) the happier you are. You’ve changed your brain.
Changed. Your. Brain.
Huge, I know.
So you see, you can be smiled at or smile at someone, but either way you’re triggering the happy receptors in your brain. And we all know that a little bit of happiness never hurt anyone. Give it a shot. Try on the simple act of smiling. Go find connection in the pause. It seems silly (sure) and a little awkward (of course) but it just might change your life.