The Benefits of Smiling

You’re in your late teens and home for the summer. In a brand new day and you’re expected to be at work in about an hour.  No big deal, you just gotta climb out of bed and make yourself look decent and get on the bus — wait, nope, that’s your mom who hasn’t been called into work that morning and wants you to take the time to eat a good balanced breakfast.  Mom is excellent and loving and wants the best for you, who are in your late teens but still kind of immature and had this been any other era of history, you’d already be married with three kids, who are also working. At a steel factory.

You oblige to her motherly wishes and eat your Kix, which kind of taste different from how your remember them as a child and bear some sort of corny aftertaste that hadn’t been there before.  You declare it kinda nasty but finish it up. A quick glance at the microwave clock proclaims that unless you start moving, you’re going to miss the bus.


After gathering your things and running barefoot to the car to get your shoes, you run down the block and stare down the boulevard for the 125 bus.  It doesn’t come. You missed the bus.

The morning was okay until that very moment.  But by all important accounts, your morning had just turned “bad”.  The problem lies in the idea of grouping together subsequent moments of consciousness by where those moments find themselves during the day. We dictate the quality of the whole morning by the present we’re presently experiencing. It also works the other way.  We dictate the quality of the present moment by the whole morning.

Now I’m generally gestalt about things.  The bigger picture in politics, culture, music, etc., is much more significant for us as a people than the minute details of things.  That said, the minute details sometimes tend to have huge ramifications on the gestalt.  And if Mrs. Wakefield never ran out of chocolate for her chocolate cookies, the chocolate chip cookie would never have been born and I’d have five fewer cavity-related dentist appointment stories to tell today.

The hard part is defining “a moment”.  I’m not going to worry about that now, though.  My title is “the Benefits of Smiling”, so I’m going to have to figure out how to tie that in to what I’m saying. Ummm.

Oh! So yeah, I’m feeling cruddy – I mean, you’re feeling cruddy because your mom’s like “You should have gotten up earlier!” and you’re (very immaturely) like “I didn’t want to eat breakfast in the first place!” and your mom’s like “Worst excuse ever!” and you’re like “Yeah I know”.  The fact that your mom’s upset only makes you yourself upset and then anxieties that have nothing to do with anything creep up and you suddenly find yourself frowning and it sucks.

What’s a physical remedy for this?

  1. Pull the corners of your mouth up.
  2. That’s it.

Smiling makes you feel better. Thoughts are fleeting.  I’m not even sure the pinpointing of thoughts can be done on a time scale like tangible events. I’m not even sure time scales are a valid way to look at time.  I don’t even really understand time, but I’m not an astrophysics major, so it’s not my problem </lame excuse to not know something>. But smiling is physical.  Whatever the true nature of time is (Literature plug! Read From Eternity to Here: the Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll), if you’re smiling now, you’re consciously breaking off this very moment from the infinitely crappy moments you’re tempted to bunch together to classify a crappy morning.

Yes, it doesn’t get rid of your problems (unless, like, there’s someone giving you a problem because you’re not smiling.  In that case, please leave North Korea). But you are choosing to be an outward testimony to someone who just might need that smile more than you.

I know it’s kind of “in” right now to complain.  In fact, that’s a pretty sure way to make friends with those who are frustrated by the same stuff.  And for me, personally, it’s hard to smile knowing those around me are feeling anxiety over something (read: my slowness in the morning getting ready). But it’s worth a shot.  It doesn’t find you the right path in life, and it doesn’t automatically usher in a wave of ecstatic fun no matter what you’re doing, but we need it.



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