Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

What’s in a smile? (and why we need it here)

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

 “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” Mother Teresa

Why is it that more people scowl these days? What is happening to us? It is a scientific fact: smiling is healthier for both you and the person opposite you. Why can a simple store transaction often become an downer, and why do the tax people assume you are guilty before innocent? They rarely smile! And why are bus drivers so serious (of course they are under pressure!). Why can’t we simply smile more at each other? Can’t we be a little kinder to each other? Can’t we spread a little light?

What’s in a smile? “When you smile, your brain releases neuropeptides. … Your brain also releases feel-good neurotransmitters, including dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, when a smile flashes across your face. These brain chemicals aid in calming your nervous system by lowering heart rate and blood pressure.” (Debbie Halperin, “How a Simple Smile Benefits Your Brain and Body,” The Best Brain Possible). 

And here are four reasons everyone, including and especially those who lead people, ought to smile.

1. Smiles make you happy. If you are ever in a down mood, try smiling ear to ear. Watch your mood change instantly.

2. Smiles make others happy. People like to be around people that are happy, it makes them happy.

3. Smiles say you care and are approachable. Research shows that being kind to employees for example improves productivity.

4. Smiles use less muscles than frowning. Therefore smiling will make you less tired and give you more energy.

One thing to note – make sure when you smile that it is genuine and not forced or fake. People can tell the difference. So smile today. Smile now, feel the difference.” (from “Does Smiling Make You a Better Leader?” Top Four Reasons You Should Smile More,

We also know that “smiling helps to generate more positive emotions within you. That’s why we often feel happier around children – they smile more. On average, they do so 400 times a day. Whilst happy people still smile 40-50 times a day, the average of us only does so 20 times.” (Leo Windrich, The Science of Smiling: A Guide to The World’s Most Powerful Gesture, in Buffer)

Who are the some of the great people who smiled genuinely much more often than not? Who are the famous people whose smiles immediately impacted on our moods and well being?   Here’s just a few: Jim Carey, Sam Eliot (the actor guy with the moustache), Thích Nhất Hạnh, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Charlie Chaplin, Nelson Mandala, FDR…

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

That’s why in a recent research scientists concluded “that smiling can be as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 Pounds Sterling in cash.” Here is a brief description of the different muscles the cranial muscle activates in our face:

Furthermore, smiles are reciprocal and contagious: “Scientists and spiritual teachers alike agree that the simple act of smiling can transform you and the world around you. Current research (and common sense) shows us that a smile is contagious (1). It can make us appear more attractive to others. It lifts our mood, as well as the moods of those around us. (Merci, Colette.) And it can even lengthen our lives (2). (Sara Stevenson, “There’s Magic in Your Smile”, Psychology Today“)

PART II. MY PROJECT Recently, I tried to rate each Jerusalem institution I do business with, rating each for my mood in the transaction (most often, smiles were the primary contributor). Here’s what I arrived at (this of course is my own personal experience). On a scale of 1 (LOW) to 10 (HIGH) ratings (here’s just a few):

LOW RATING:  Misrad HaRishui (Registry of Motor Vehicles) 1; Mas Hachnasah  (Tax Offices)1;  Kupat Cholim Meuchedet (Meuchedet Health Fund)-Talpiot/Beitar -Reception Desk 1; Post Office Derech Beit Lechem 2, Betuach Leumi, 1; The Heart Institute (Machon Lev), 4th floor Azrieli Mall, 2;

MEDIUM RATING Bank Leumi (Derech Hebron 101) 4, Yes Planet Cinema, Jerusalem 5, Coffee Mill 6

HIGH RATING–  Makolet Shakuri  (Shakuri Market), Rechov Ein Gedi 8 ; Roladin (Derech Hebron 101) 8;  Lev Smadar Cinema 10 ; French Pharmacy, Derech Beit Lehem 9; Itzik’s Cafe 7, Visiting Yossi Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman, 10; Dr. David Schler, Talpiot, 10.

An idea: what if a bunch of us got together with all our good feeeling/smile ratings and actually mapped out Jerusalem: a color coded “smile” map informing people where and where not to go, especially if they need uplifting?  If you need an example, take the story of roundabout traffic circles. Through these seemingly innocuous inventions, Israeli drivers were gently nudged into learning about the right of way (and being in a sense “kinder”). Perhaps a “smile” map would help in a similar way?

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

So now that we have a new mayor who always seems to be smiling, can we learn from him? He can be our poster person. We can use slogans like “A smile a day keeps the doctor away” or “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you!” “May a smile be your umbrella.” Perhaps the drearier offices and stores will change their ways, educating their employees in a culture of polite, courteous and friendly service. In saying this, I am not at all being facetious. On the contrary, I am absolutely SERIOUS. Of course, we are not talking about everyone.  And of course it is sometimes torture to be a clerk in one of the “official” offices! They deserve our support and encouragement.  For instance, try telling one of them a joke; or giving them a piece of candy! (My father, Wolfe Horenstein z”l always did; throughout the North Shore of Boston they called him the “Mr. Candy Man”! But frankly here and there there were people who thought he was verifiably nuts and ran away from him.)

Wolfe Horenstein z”l, alias “Mr. Candy Man” (courtesy)

A few days ago a good friend reminded me: “Of course if you are nice from the “git-go”, chances are people will be nicer to you. One smile does deserve another! “(Yes, but I ask myself, have I ever smiled in the tax office?)  Or, perhaps we could think about creating neighborhood joke-mobiles, traveling from one sour institution to another, where people can learn jokes to their hearts content, and then use them on others!..(but please, avoid racist or gross jokes for “what goes around, comes around”).

So everybody, please gather up your smiles, and USE THEM!  If we do this, together we can begin to change our culture into a warmer, more supportive environment, for us, our children and our children’s children!

And finally, above all else, please remember: “When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you….When you’re laughing, when you’re laughing, the sun keeps shining through, But when you cry, you bring out the rain, so stop that crying, be HAPPY again, When you’re smiling, so when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you!

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments