Why Smiling May Keep You Sane

Last night I stood in line with three items; frozen yoghurt, ice cream and sorbet. It had been a hot and muggy day, and even the A/C in the grocery store couldn’t overcome the humidity. I was in the “12 items only” lane, behind a gal with about 20 items, but as every other lane was packed, I just stayed where I was. I was hot, tired, and just wanted to pay for my three little items and go home.

Well, 20 Item girl had trouble with her debit card, which had to be inserted four times to get it right. Then there was a small argument about whether or not a potted plant had been paid for after the card was inserted. Then the manager had to be called over because there was another glitch, then another and then one more.

My three items were slowly melting, even with the A/C running. The people behind me were getting restless, and there was a lot of sighing and muttering building up. I wasn’t thrilled about this either, but I knew that getting angry and impatient would only make me hotter, angrier and probably melt my sorbet. So I pasted on a smile and decided to make this a “zen” moment.

I began doing this a long time ago when I finally learned that you can sigh and shuffle your feet and roll your eyes all you want, but none of that will ever change a situation like this. All it ever does is add to the impatience and chaos that is already building up in mind and body.

All the other lines were packed and even with all the kerfuffle going on in front of me, it was still my best option to just stay in line—and smile. There is something deep in our cells that responds to a smile. There are tons of studies out there that tell us that smiling can actually change our brain chemistry, our mood and our outlook on life.

In the ten minutes or so when 20 Item girl was having problems with her card, I could have spent that time fuming and tapping my feet irritably, which would undoubtedly have raised my blood pressure and would have done nothing to improve the situation. So I smiled and it made me feel better.

It’s very possible that those around me saw me as a simple-minded smiling cluck, but at least my blood pressure stayed low. And eventually, as I knew it would, 20 Item girl finally got straightened out and I and my slightly mooshy confections were on our way home.

Smiling is the chicken soup of the body. As the old comedians used to say about chicken soup for a cold, ‘it couldn’t hurt.’ Same goes for smiling your way through an aggravating situation—-it couldn’t hurt.