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S.A.D. - I smile, You smile, We all smile

The winter months are a time when warmly nostalgic ideas of the ‘night’s drawing in’; cosy jumpers, snuggling under blankets, twinkly lights as we approach Christmas, dark mornings, and afternoons are jovially depicted during the Autumn season (in the lead up to Christmas) by the media, positively. However, this is not the reality for some; coping with this seasonal change is often harder for those people to manifest feelings of hope or positivity. No matter how many holistic practices such as regulating sleep patterns, exercise, and fresh air, the feeling of melancholy persists. Any alleviation of the acuteness of these feelings is often a lifebuoy in a sea of overwhelming negative thought patterns leading to lower mood, overthinking, lethargy, and exhaustion.

A recent government publication suggests that establishing and affirming a positive setting has the potential to impact the behaviours of those who frequent that setting. This had me thinking! The context of this paper was directed towards children but as a grown-up, are we any different? Do we respond to an upbeat surrounding differently from a lacklustre encounter? An emphasis on empowering those around you and taking particular care to support and nurture positive behaviours could benefit your wellbeing. The responsibility may fall on caregivers or those with a greater social conscience, but should this be the case? Is there not a collective responsibility to uplift and improve our environments? The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) accredited service Health Assured suggests that having a positive disposition pertains to feelings of reduced stress, better focus and improved decision making. This perceived breezier attitude also allows for heightening confidence in one’s abilities.

It is said that ‘Smile and the world smiles with you”. Perhaps when smiling the brain perceives other faces as smiling. Therefore, recognising the environment as more positive than if you were not smiling. A simple smile presents as a beacon of kindness that is universal across ages, cultures, and languages. A smile is generally inclusive, in essence, most people can smile and do smile when the occasion takes them. Smiling releases serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain. These are the feel-good hormones that are known to reduce both anxiety and increase feelings of happiness. Serotonin is the hormone used in many anti-depressant medications’ doctors prescribe to patients for anxiety and depression.

‘Lead by example’ is another well-known idiom that is enacted often within our lives or at the very least you have been given this as an anecdotal piece of advice, usually from a friend or family member. Encouraging individuals to inspire others through their behaviour, not language. If the people who surround us were more positive in their demeanour does that affect our own? Conversely, if we were to behave more positively would the effects bounce backwards and forwards between ourselves and others in our immediate surroundings? Have you ever walked down the street and someone else is chirpily showing their pearly whites in your direction? Particularly if eye contact is made, generally, most humans will reciprocate the greeting and smile back. Therefore, each smile smiled, and each smile reciprocated may well be releasing hormones that can lift the people engaged in that momentary exchange. Not bad for a few seconds’ work!

These contemplations support that there isn’t a one size fits all magic remedy to feeling more positive, however trying something a little different, that we are all capable of, may make a difference in our lives. Smiling is free, it is known to be contagious, it sometimes leads to laughter and colloquially is known as a good dose of medicine.

Mother Theresa was known across the globe as a symbol of kindness and care. She said, “peace begins with a smile” and perhaps she was speaking of greater contexts. However, maybe, just maybe she was applying this to a person's inner peace too.

*Please note, if you are feeling as though you cannot manage feelings or mood levels, please speak to your doctor, as there are various ways to support you through challenging mental health periods.

See Kind To Mind Free Resources on our website for support suggestions.


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