“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
“If you hadn’t smiled and asked if I needed help, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” That’s what Melissa admitted to Jan as the three of us sipped coffee one morning in the church basement. Apparently, four years prior, Jan had approached Melissa as she was crossing a room looking for the spot where new church members were supposed to meet. “I was panicking,” Melissa confessed, “and was just about to turn and leave.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta once said that we’ll never understand the power of a simple smile.
Truth be told, Jan had no recollection of that first encounter with Melissa. But I can reconstruct what Jan probably did and said because I’ve seen her do and say it again and again with people:
You see, Jan has a gift – the gift of joy. I’ve watched her embody that joy in the boardroom, the classroom, the bank, the hair salon, the grocery store, and the dentist’s office. Her joy never disappoints. It walks, talks, sits, stands, runs, plays, and dances with her. Jan’s joy is there. Always there. Physically there.
What I’ve learned from observing Jan is that the body language of joy is, in many ways, self-perpetuating. In his talk “Five Rules for a Joyful Life”, Chris Stefanick says we should never forget that our body language helps us choose joy. Our position will impact our disposition.
Try this. Straighten your spine, put your shoulders back, look outward instead of downward, and put a smile on your face. Then, take a walk – around your office, neighborhood, city, or park.
Notice what changes.
Do you feel any different? Neuroscience reports that a smile stimulates the brain’s reward mechanism almost as much as receiving a $25,000 check. Smiling “makes you feel good even if you’re not feeling good in the moment.” When you’re feeling down, smiling can prompt your brain to produce feel-good hormones.
Does the world seem any different to you? Again, research shows us that a smile is contagious. It not only lifts our own mood, but also the moods of those around us. Chances are that people will respond to your smile with a smile of their own. And perhaps a “hello, how are you?”
Studies show that when you smile, people treat you differently. Smiling makes you more attractive, which in turn prompts people to react more positively to you. A smile is a beacon of joy that invites encounter.
Like my friend Jan, your smile and gestures can communicate a sense of invitation, comfort, and ease that has a profound effect on a person right there, in the moment. In fact, as was the case for Melissa, a simple smile could change a person’s life forever.
What does joy look like on you? How do you express it? Consider being more intentional about the body language of joy and see whose day you can change with your smile, warm handshake or kind word. Experience the power of embodied joy!
If you would like to learn more about how body language can help you create a JoyPowered™ workspace, family, team, business, or life, please reach out to me.