Motivation, Personal Development, Stories from life

The power of a smile

I met a friend of mine at the local grocery store this morning. She is a fantastic and inspiring woman, and a cancer survivor. With tears in her in eyes she told me that just a few days before the doctors had given her a clean bill of health and she would now be able to stop taking the powerful hormones she had been on for the past five years.

One side-effect of the hormones was that she had frequent a harsh dizzy spells and experienced dis-equilibrium. This made many day to day activities a challenge and hiking in areas on uneven ground would be impossible. She smiled a huge smile as a couple of tears ran down her face and said that she was now so looking forward to going on hikes in the forests near her home.

I’ve known this woman for more than 20 years now. She has been an aunt for many of the children who have grown up in Nærsnes (the little village I live in outside of Oslo) and was one of my early Norwegian teachers, offering pointers and helping me laugh at my many mistakes. Even today we often reminisce about some of my more famous blunders. If I were to use one word to describe this woman it would be contentment. Even in the most difficult times when the cancer treatment was at its most brutal I would see her with a smile on her lips. I wonder if this may be one of the reasons for her recovery. Modern research points to the fact that your posture, your facial expressions (like smiling) and even your breathing can affect the release of neuro-transmitters associated with happiness and wellbeing (for more on this read Amy Cuddy’s great book, Presence)

I’m going through a transition in my life right now. Transitions are exciting, but they can also be daunting. I can easily look at all the challenges in front of me and get a little depressed. I notice that in these times my body language becomes more negative. Seeing my friend this morning reminded me that the relationship between emotions and how we carry ourselves is a two way street; each one affecting the other. As I stood there in the morning sun talking with her I noticed that her smile infected me. Her laugh coaxed a laugh out of me. It was one of those small everyday inspirations that are easy to overlook, but I decided not to do so today, but rather to let that smile infect me for the rest of the day. And as I sit here writing this post I’m taking small breaks to practice some of Cuddy’s power poses (see chapter 8), like the Starfish, to help release some positive neuro-transmitters. Meeting my friend this morning challenged me to smile more :-). What about you?

You might also want to check out Cuddy’s Ted Talk –


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