Monday, October 25, 2010

The positive effects of smiling

Sunflowers, in full bloom, know how to smile.  Photo from my backyard.
Okay this is a little out of left field maybe, but I ran across this really interesting article on smiling and suicide prevention published by the American Journal of Psychiatry found here.

Suicide, without trying to make light of a devastating topic, is the antithesis of good health.  As Americans, we value life.  From the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Life was believed to be a right of every human being according to the authors of the Declaration.

Of course, not everyone loves their own life and sometimes suicide appears to be the only way out of what looks to be a desperate or embarrassing situation at the particular moment in time.  A few weeks ago in a quiet Arizona community, a man killed his wife, two children (ages 8 & 10) and then himself.  Here's the story if you wish to read it for yourself.  The article says his wife was taken away in extremely critical condition, however according to subsequent articles, she did end up dying two days later in the hospital.  I read in another place that the children were wonderful students and the family car had the special "It Shouldn't Hurt To Be A Child" child abuse awareness license plate.  Obviously there was some other hurt deep within this man that led him to do such a terrible thing.  Sadly, these stories are becoming all too familiar lately.  Maybe it's the economy, maybe it's not.  This gentleman had been employed and was portrayed as a very likeable person by his co-workers, so that doesn't seem to be the case in this particular story.   Whatever the man's "reason" for this, the end result was tragic. 

So back to the original article that inspired me to write this little bit.  According to the American Journal of Psychiatry's article (and it is very readable, no technical jargon to get in the way) a genuine smile can prevent someone from taking their life.  The simple act of showing just a fleeting interest in another human being can have enormous positive consequences.  I have read in some Orthodox Christian literature that smiling at another person is a form of almsgiving.  That's a really great concept if you think about it.

Now I'm not suggesting we all walk around like a bunch of jackasses with a big stupid grin on our faces all day long, but maybe we should be a little more aware of how we carry ourselves.  There are some days when we can't smile.  We all have had those days.  However, there are also days in which we can.  Perhaps, even if it is just one day a week for five minutes that we are happy, we can max out those five minutes by flashing someone a smile or a kind word. 

At any rate, read the article above and let's all make at least a small effort to smile more.  There is an upside for women too.  The more women genuinely smile, the less wrinkles they have.  Google it, there is research to support that theory!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"As Americans, we value life."
You are talking about life after birth. What about life before birth? As Americans we do NOT value life. So we have to pay. Suffer. All of us.