A smile, a smile. Such a simple little thing. Merely the contraction of twelve relevant muscles in the face and . . . BAM . . . there it is.
How is it that I wasn't smiling enough before now?
I think lots of people don't smile nearly enough. Contrary to popular belief, a smile involves more muscles than a frown, but the muscles involved in a smile are more developed as most people smile from infancy. That means that, aside from a few cases, it's not a matter of being unable to smile . . . It's a lack of things to smile about that has our corrugator supercilii (a muscle that spans the forehead) furrowing.
I realize that life isn't easy. There are money problems, family issues, and personal demons working against us. Timmy's mom is out of a job. Timmy's getting bullied at school. Timmy gets frustrated about his homework. There's so much stress in the world right now that the smile seems to be turning into a rare commodity.
It doesn't have to be. Take a second right now and think about the last time you smiled. Really smiled, mind you, not fake-smiled. Was it longer than fifteen minutes ago? An hour? Three days? If you can't remember, you're in some serious trouble. You may have a disease commonly referred to as "Grumpulitisosis." Yes, it's dire. But there is a simple cure! Just engage those Zygomaticus muscles (the muscles that primarily lift the corners of the mouth) and pop out a smile.
I know I did. You see, I was infected with Grumpulitisosis myself. I wasn't even angry or sad - I was just on autopilot. I felt like everything was coming at me and I could see it and touch it and smell it but I wasn't really there. I ate less. The amount I talked to my friends decreased significantly. I was tired all the time and my grades were suffering because I was giving up.
With the help of someone very dear to me, I realized that this wasn't how I wanted to pass my first year in high school. I decided that I would make a list of thirty things I was thankful for every week - until I ran out of ideas, I couldn't repeat anything. It's corny, but it opened my eyes. From the first two weeks I made the list, I found myself lighter. I was hungry more and instead of feeling meh, I felt full. I didn't realize it had physical ramifications until I was spending time with my boyfriend one night and he said, "I've missed your smile. Glad it's back."
I guess I never realized that it just wasn't there until it came back. My friends noticed it too and, like magic, I started noticing them smiling more often. Had I been bringing them down? Maybe. I'm not going to ask. The happier I got, the happier everyone else that cared about me seemed to be. Maybe it was because, for the first time, I was looking at them and noticing things I'd never seen before. Maybe it was because they were happy that I was happy. Whatever it was, there was an improvement of the general mood of everyone close to me.
So this is my advice for you. You don't have to take it, but I suggest that you at least try.
One - Take a day and study your friends. Really study them. Note their reactions to you when you smile and when you are visibly upset. The results are fairly predictable, but interesting.
Two - Start your own list. It doesn't have to be thirty things in a week. It can be one thing a day, two things a week, seven things a month, it doesn't matter! Don't think about what you're putting on the list. Just start. Roll with it. Be specific, too - instead of "friends" put down "The way Ashley's eyes light up when she zeroes in on chocolate."
Three - Smile! Every chance you get. Even with someone you hope will get eaten by piranhas one day. Bumped into somebody in the hall? Apologize and smile. Watch how they react. One of your teachers looks like she's feeling down? Smile when you answer questions. Smile at complete strangers. Some people will find you strange, but you may just make someone's day.
Four - Only smile when you mean it. Really, really mean it. And smile whenever you feel the urge to. Life's too short to hold back.
Find your reason to smile, Whyville, and you might notice the world getting just *that much* brighter.
No matter how grouchy you're feeling,
You'll find the smile more or less healing.
It grows in a wreath
All around the front teeth -
Thus preserving the face from congealing.