Looking for a Reason to Smile?

Well apparently it makes you feel better. Doh you say? Well a couple of dudes spent seven years experimenting to prove this fact. You see I’ve just read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, a book that discusses the decisions we make within the blink of an eye. Things like whether or not we like someone, if something is authentic, who gets the job, the taste of things, our response to smells, etc.. It’s a cool little book and if you read it, you’ll understand why sometimes we just know something, even if we don’t know why. The other great thing about this yarn is it encourages us to trust these instincts, as they are often more right than taking endless amounts of time over decisions, factoring in every possibility… I definitely need to get Steve to read it. He’s definitely a planner.

There are lots of stories backed up by research, including a fascinating chapter on the increase in professional female musicians with the worlds’ orchestras once auditions were held behind screens. When the traditional male decision makers listened with their ears and not their eyes, the number of women accepted into orchestral positions took off. As an ex-female Euphonium player, I was very happy to hear that.

But Silvan Tomkins, Wallace V. Friesen and Paul Ekman really caught my attention. Pre their research, conventional wisdom held that expressions were culturally determined or “we simply used our faces according to a set of learned social conventions.” These guys proved that facial expressions were universal and then they spent seven years mapping facial muscles and expressions. Apparently there are 43 distinct muscular movements in the face, and for two muscle groupings there are 300 possible combinations, a 3rd muscle added brings it up to 4,000, and a 5th muscle means more than 10,000 possible muscle combinations…

The really interesting part was the physical impact on the men during the days they focused on anger and distress. After weeks of doing this, one of them said they were feeling like crap. Then the other realised he’d been feeling like crap too. So then they started monitoring the link between expressions and feeling like crap. Then a whole new world of research opened up about how our expressions and our autonomic nervous systems are linked.

So the message, if you’re walking around like a miserable bastard feeling like crap all the time, stop being a miserable bastard. Sometimes when I catch myself with a “down” mouth, I say hang on and force a smile. It doesn’t always shake the mood, but it helps. Other times when I get a cold and start feeling bloody miserable about it, I know I’ve got to shake the mood to shake the sickness. As “they” say, happiness heals.

That’s what I discovered in this cracking yarn and thought it worth sharing with any other miserable bastards out there.

Yours, without the bollocks


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