by Joy Saunders Lundberg
When I was about twelve years old my Aunt Fern took me aside and gave me a tip about life that I have never forgotten. Usually aunts don’t take you aside and tell you to do something you’re already doing. I must have been going around with a grumpy countenance to provoke such a specific counseling session.
“Smile,” she said, putting her arm around me. “Smile all the time, whenever you can at everyone you can. People will want to be around you if you do.” On she went, “Nobody enjoys being with a grumpy person. If you want friends, smile.” She even suggested I look in the mirror and practice smiling. I have always admired Aunt Fern, who incidently at age 89 still smiles all the time, and everyone loves her, so I did precisely as she suggested.
I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom and smiled my head off. I tried all kinds of smiles until I settled on my ordinary plain, simple, happiest looking teeth-showing smile. I practiced it. It felt good and made me feel happier. Give it a try, it’ll work for you, too.
This idea was further boosted when in the 10th grade I was encouraged by an LDS friend in our school who was a senior to try out for cheerleader. It was a small high school in eastern Oregon with not many Latter-day Saints. She was head cheerleader, would be graduating and moving on. Without a moments hesitation I emphatically told her. “No. I won’t try out.”
I had tried out the year before and soundly lost, after which I had determined I would never tryout again. It’s humiliating to lose. In those days the cheerleaders were chosen by student body election. I had practiced hard and thought I did okay, but found out from a “leak” that I not only lost, but came in last. No way would I humiliate myself and tryout again! Not ever!
She prevailed, “You have to. I’m leaving and when I’m gone there won’t be an LDS cheerleader to be an example for the Church.” I assured her that if I tried out there would still be no LDS cheerleader, because I would lose. She persisted. “If I teach you how to win will you try out?”
“Can you guarantee I would win?”
“No, but almost. I think if you do what I say you could win.”
She had me. “Okay, if you’ll teach me I’ll try out just one more time.”
She worked with me, teaching me cheers, but more importantly she taught me how to relate to the students. She said, “Start caring about everyone in this school, really caring. Learn their names, be interested in them. And smile. Smile and be friendly. Smile at everyone.”
Back to the mirror, smiling my head off again. Learning the kids’ names, learning about them and actually caring about them. School became very fun. It’s fun to smile, and it’s even more fun to be an example of the teachings of Jesus Christ by truly caring about others.
So, end of story: I won. And I won for the next two years until I graduated. Because of my friend I knew my smile let people know that I was a happy member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I took that responsibility seriously, not doing it perfectly, but smiling my way through my blunders. It made high school fun.
At a recent General Young Women Conference Sister Elaine Dalton, Gen. Y.W. president, said, “The Lord loves you, and I know you love Him. It shows in your countenance, in your modesty, in your desire to choose the right, and in your commitment to remain virtuous and pure.” (Elaine S. Dalton, “Remember Who You Are!”, Ensign, May 2010, 120–23)
In a recent Young Women event in Los Angeles, California Sister Dalton counseled young women to do four things, the 4th being “Smile every day.” (Church News, March 5, 2011, 15)
When we are striving to keep the commandments it can’t help but show in our countenances. I remember working with a young woman who had fallen from living a virtuous life. She thought she was happy, but her face betrayed her. Her countenance had gone dark, there was a sadness in her eyes. She didn’t smile much anymore. At one point she realized what she had lost, returned to the Church and fully repented. The look on her face completely changed. She smiled, her eyes had a spark. When you are living righteously it just plain and simply shows up on your face.
Besides exhibiting the light of Christ, a smile offers other rewards. Dr. Mark Stibich reported the following, to which I’ve added my own comments in brackets.
1. Smiling makes us attractive. [I think of that when I’m in less-than-attractive attire and no makeup on, in the grocery store, you know, dashing in to grab something quick hoping I won’t see anyone I know. And I run into an old friend Oh, no! What do I do? Smile, smile big, Who cares what you’re wearing if you smile and are happy to see them. A smile is the best cosmetic. It’s a quick way to change your looks. To extend this idea, if you’re single and want to attract a mate, or married and want to keep the one you’ve got, then smile. The point is, smiling makes you attractive, and people do fall in love with people who are attractive to them.]
2. Smiling Is Contagious. [It’s like a magnet. It attracts people to you and makes them smile, too. Try it as you walk down the street or the hall at church or school. Your smile will be rewarded with a smile from everyone you give one to. One happy, smiling person can change the atmosphere of an entire room. There’s no question about it, smiling IS contagious.]
3. Smiling Relieves Stress. [Stress shows up on a person’s face, and stress is not pretty. Isn’t it nice to know you can smile it away? When I’m tired and worn out, I’ve learned that smiling helps me relax and feel rejuvenated. And I’m certain it helps my husband feel happier when he sees me smiling.]
4. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System. [Dr. Stibich believes that smiling kicks your immune system into a higher gear, warding off flu and colds. He also said it can even lower your blood pressure. That ought to put a smile on a lot of faces.]
5. Smiling Helps Relieve Pain. [When you’re in pain you may think the last thing you want to do is smile. Do it anyway. Research shows it releases endorphins and seratonin, natural pain killers. If nothing else, it will bring a positive attitude—you can’t smile and think negative at the same time. You and your loved ones will feel a boost from your smile.] (Top 10 Reasons to Smile, By Mark Stibich, Ph.D., About.com )
Debra Moorhead, a motivational speaker, said, “A smile will significantly increase your self-esteem. Smiling sends a subtle message to your subconscious that you like yourself and that you’re contented. You really are as happy as you decide to be and smiling sends the message, ‘Mission accomplished.’
“Use it while on the phone. You’ll be amazed at how people will be able to tell you’re smiling! Just as important, smiling improves your mood – that’s what comes across over the phone or even while composing e-mail!” (www.debramoorhead.com/blog/?p=71)
A smile can be seen in a person’s eyes. If you cover your face, leaving only your eyes visible, then smile, your eyes will reveal that you’re smiling. When the corners of your mouth turn up in a smile it makes the corners of your eyes turn up a little and your eyes actually twinkle. Look in the mirror and watch it happen. Smiles light up your whole face. I witnessed this when we were visiting with a Muslim friend who wore a veil over all but her eyes. I could always tell when she was smiling. However, I missed actually seeing her smile. Fortunately, when she stayed in our home and removed the veil we had the chance to see her whole smile, which we much preferred.
It’s a Gift
A smile is an unselfish gift you give to someone. It brightens their day and says they matter. Mother Teresa said, “ Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Smile at a child and watch his face brighten up. It works just as well on older folks. And it doesn’t cost a penny. Reminds me of that saying, “The best things in life are free.” Smiling is one of those. Give it often and be blessed for it. As someone once said, “Smile, it increases your face value.”
Bless Your Home with Your Smile
When a new baby is born it becomes our daily effort to try to get this tiny new little soul to smile. We tickle her cheeks, we make funny sounds, we smile our biggest smiles hoping she’ll catch on and smile back. When she does, it’s a very big deal. We announce it to the whole family, and we work at trying to get her to show it off to each family member. That little smile brightens up the whole house.
Smiling is a big deal. We need to keep promoting it at home by smiling at all of our children and certainly at our spouse. It brings sunshine into a home and says to all there, “life is good and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you.”