“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”
That’s what writer William Arthur Ward said, and we couldn’t agree more. Isn’t that what we all want? Positivity in our lives that is reflected by kind and authentic social interactions, trust in ourselves and in what the future holds for us, and generally believing that the glas is half full? Being positive and having a positive attitude is of course much more than just a smile, it has to do with your overall perspective of and focus in life. It is a mindset. Smiling and laughing are only two ways to outwardly express this positive mindset and attitude. But everybody who has experienced a full blown laughing fit knows just how good it feels and how much it can impact our happiness.
But not all smiles are equal, you might think. Right, researchers have identified 19 different kinds of smiles, whereof only six are out of happiness. That of course doesn’t say anything about the frequency of actually showing these smiles but it gives a good indication that even though generally we smile out of happiness, or at least contentment, there are many other reasons as well. Most of them have to do with our social context. We smile when we want to put people at ease, when we show compliance, when we are embarrassed, or even when we are miserable. The one true happiness smile is called the Duchenne smile, after the French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne. He found that true contentment is expressed by a long and intense smile, involving the characteristic ‘twinkling eyes’.
Some researchers even suggest that faking a smile can trick your brain into thinking that something positive is occurring and is thus putting you in a good mood. Positive emotions are an outcome, probably stimulated by feel-good hormones which are released upon the smile.
So when we know that smiling is good for us, for our health, happiness and well-being. And we know that a positive attitude in life boosts our frequencies of smiles, how can we in turn enhance our positive attitude? A positive mindset is after all linked to increased personal, job and life satisfaction. Let’s first of all look at a couple of personality traits and characteristics that are generally associated with a positive mindset.
Recognising that things won’t always go to plan or as anticipated or wanted, and being okay with that. Knowing that mistakes and failure are part of life and part of our learning journey, thus seeing them as teachers and not villains.
Being courageous doesn’t mean to not recognise the potential of failure or risk, but doing it anyway. It’s about not fearing rejection and failure but welcoming it as a potential to learn and grow.
Having an active approach to appreciating even the smallest things in life. This can be anything from being grateful for social relationships like family and friends to a crisp and sunny winter’s morning. A gratitude journal is a common way to practice this active approach by writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for on a daily basis. If you need any inspiration for your journaling practice:
Acting in an integer way is making sure that your behaviour is in line with your norms and values and is exhibited honourably and righteously.
Shifting your mind from the unconscious to the conscious by gaining space between your impulses or triggers and your actions. Knowing that you are not your thoughts and emotions but that you are the one deciding what to do with them.
Being optimistic is about having the expectation that the desired outcome will be achieved. Assuming that in general all is well and life is good and that even if things will be difficult, there is always a way to make things happen.
Acknowledging that everybody faces failure, stress and tough times in their lives and making sure that those times do not define our future. Bouncing back from those set-backs and not giving up by adapting to the new circumstances and learning from each situation.
Everybody knows that one person that just seems to be born to be more optimistic, who indeed sees their glas always as half full. Does that mean that those people are the lucky ones because they are born optimistic, and we just have to deal with the fact that we are not? Fortunately for us, not at all. Everybody can train their positive-mindset muscle, so to speak. Here are a couple of suggestions of how to do that.
This one does not come as a surprise but is worth mentioning anyway. Even if it is only to stress the fact that smiling people come across as more open and accessible which makes others easier to confide in them, trust them, and generally be nice to them as well. A smile in a difficult situation can ease the tension and help lift some negativity from the minds of others.
BE HAPPY FOR THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
This has a lot to do with your mindset around abundance and scarcity. Meaning, do you believe that there is enough for everybody to be happy, successful and full of joy, or do you believe that whenever someone else has more, you inevitably have less? To train your mindset of abundance you can do a couple of things: give more than you take, be genuinely happy for someone else’s success and tell them so, stay positive in the face of failure, and be content with what you have.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS
The way we talk to ourselves and others has a significant impact on our overall well-being. Practising a positive self-talk is a great starting point to taking care of yourself. Share that same kindness also to others by paying compliments even to strangers, motivate others with an encouraging word, be friendly, helpful and energetic to lift others up.
One thing is clear by now, having a positive attitude and mindset is a very powerful tool to enhance your well-being and there are several ways to train your positive-attitude muscle, even if you are not born the true optimist. The list of things to practice is long, and if you don’t know where to start, just smile…