Monday, September 17, 2012

Flash Those Pearly Whites: Spread the LOVE!

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I visited New York City for the first time during my sophomore year of college. Courtney B. Minton (yes, the 'B' is important), my very best friend and former hall mate in the dorm, accompanied me on my adventure. The trip was EPIC. We saw a hit-and-run up close and personal, made our TV debut during a shout-out on MTV's Total Request Live, tried (and failed miserably, I might add) at buying a fake I.D. in Chinatown, accidentally ate someone else's dinner at a communal-style meal on Canal Street and met some real live New York City firefighters, who subsequently snuck us into a club since our fake ID attempt was a debacle. But that is neither here nor there (sorry, mom and dad!).

The one thing that stuck out to me on my New York trip was that no one was smiling! Not one person.

Courtney and I decided it was our mission to fix this horrible crime against humanity. We hit the streets early (while bagel-hunting for breakfast), and made a valiant attempt to smile and say 'good morning!' to everyone we passed. It went something like this -- Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! - gasp for air - Good morningggggg! So many people! So little time!

Me and the infamous Courtney B. (aka. Trouble with a Capital 'T')
It worked though! People started to smile, after recovering from their confusion, of course. It was emotional contagion at its best. Emotional contagion is the simple concept that says emotions are, in fact, contagious. This concept is painfully obvious in children. When a young child falls down and scrapes their knee, they often look to their parent for a reaction. You look horrified... they scream bloody murder. You speak to them in quiet, soothing tones... they calm down. It's emotional contagion for dummies.

We have a tendency as humans to mimic the non-verbal cues expressed by those around us. If a co-worker woke up on the wrong side of the bed, suddenly your day may seem a little less than stellar. If your significant other comes home from work with their panties in a wad, you can count on the onset of a crappy mood, followed by a crappy evening, possibly leading into a crappy morning. But if your friend meets you for lunch giving off positive vibes and sharing uplifting thoughts, you, my friend, will leave lunch feeling like you just won the lottery.

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This should excite you because it means YOU have the power to cause physiological changes in the people around you. While doing them a favor, you're also causing changes in your OWN body at the same time. Studies have shown that when you give a Duchenne smile (an authentic smile categorized by your eyes wrinkling and your pearly whites flashing), you start to experience the health benefits automatically. Your body releases serotonin and dopamine (the 'happy' hormones), your immune system gets a boost, your stress levels subside and your blood pressure comes down.

Just the simple act of allowing your face to express a positive or negative emotion has physiological affects on your body. When your nose creases and your eyes narrow (aka. the angry face), your adrenaline kicks in and your heart rate changes. Likewise, when the corners of your mouth turn upwards and your eyes brighten, the 'happy' hormones set in. You can basically trick your body into being happy just by controlling your facial expressions.

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Yeah, that's right, we're gettin' all hippie up in here today! Monday is one of those days that's short on smiles, so I ask you today to go forth and spread the vitamin L (that's short for LOVE)! Or, as my favorite bumper sticker says, 'Live the life you love'. People will notice your smile and be inspired to follow suit. 

Today, I'd like to leave you with something I wrote a few years ago that seems to apply to our topic perfectly. So read it while sipping your morning coffee and give that 'case of the mundays' a run for it's money.

Hate is such a strong word.
It should never leave the tongue.
It tears into the heart, my friend,
And cannot quickly be undone.
The heart that feels it, festers,
Crumbles 'till it dies.
And when the heart is dead, my dear,
No pain it can disguise.

Love's the language of the wise.
It bolsters and it listens.
It rarely finds a fault, my friend,
And quickly offers forgiveness.
The heart that shows it, swells,
Grows until it bursts.
And when the heart is full, my dear,
It will never put itself first.

Compassion's a gift to hurting hearts.
It always comes in time.
It understands a wrong, my friend,
And rarely chooses to remind.
The ones that lives it, learns,
Reaps the blessings given.
And when they need compassion, my dear,
It always declares them forgiven.


  1. You, Miss. Yarbrough, are a consistent source of emotional contagion - always making those around you smile :)

    1. I learned from the best. Freshman year was one continual laugh. Thank you for that! :)