Monday, May 12, 2008

The Health Benefits of a Smile

As you may know, Harvey Mackay writes a weekly email.

Here's last weeks:

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile

Dr. C. Ward Crampton, former director of physical training in the New York public schools, always urged his patients to exercise. That was way back in the first half of the 20th century, when he practiced. He specifically prescribed what he called his "miracle exercise."

Dr. Crampton's miracle exercise does not require special clothing or equipment. You don't have to get down on the floor or go through a series of contortions that will leave you breathless. You can stand or sit down. It works well if you do it in front of a mirror, or better still, with someone. Here it is:

  • Raise the corners of your mouth an inch, take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds.
  • You are smiling. If you have people watching you, they'll probably start smiling too.
  • Now release your breath in short exhalations. You're now laughing. Unless those other people are curmudgeons, they'll undoubtedly start laughing too.

This simple muscular action of inhaling, while raising the corners of your mouth and exhaling in rhythmic, short bursts, causes the diaphragm to bounce up and down. It pats the liver on the back, and pleasantly vibrates the stomach. The heart, which rests above the diaphragm, begins to pump at a slightly faster rate, sending blood coursing throughout the body.

The effect, Dr. Crampton explained, is a general feeling of well-being. More important than this, however, is the effect on others who observe you going through this exercise. They feel better, too. This triggers happy emotions within you, and the stage is set for any number of pleasant personal and business relationships. All this from one simple little exercise!

I learned years ago that one of the most powerful things you can do to sell successfully is to smile at prospects. Never underestimate the value of a smile. It should be standard equipment for all people. You shouldn't come to work without a smile. And be sure to take it home with you at the end of the workday!

Smiling is the universal language. People like smiles a lot more than frowns. Many careers have been enhanced because of the presence of a bright smile. Who can match Tiger Woods' million-dollar smile, or for that matter, his endorsements? The entertainment and sports business are full of examples—Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Bette Midler, Julia Roberts, Michael Jordan, Halle Berry or maybe the greatest smile ever, that of Magic Johnson.

I remember reading an article in Newsday some years back that Holiday Inn management was looking for 500 people to fill positions for a new facility. Hotel managers interviewed 5,000 candidates and excluded all candidates who smiled fewer than four times during their interviews. And this applied to people competing for jobs in all categories.

With a name like Mackay, a lot of people mistakenly think I'm Irish, but have you ever noticed how many Irish blessings and sayings have the word smile in them? "May all your days be filled with four-leaf clovers and rainbows, smiles and laughter, and dreams come true."

Readers of this column know that I am a big fan of Dale Carnegie, the master of making friends. I carry a poem from one of his books with me and often share it when I am speaking to groups. It's called "The Value of a Smile," and I hope you learn as much from it as I have.

"It costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

"It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in a business, and is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and natures best antidote for trouble.

"Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anyone 'til it is given away. And if in the hurly-burly bustle of today's business world, some of the people you meet should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

"For nobody needs a smile so much, as those who have none left to give."

Mackey's Moral: The most powerful single thing you can do to influence others is to smile at them.

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