Haile Gebrselassie is one of my all time heroes, not just because he is arguably the GOAT (greatest of all time) of distance running, but more so because of the way he did it.
Leaving nothing but horror, pain, and disbelief on his competitors faces, Gebrselassie only knows one facial expression: His contagious smile that is so recognizable that he was dubbed the “smiling assassin.”
But this article is not about Gebrselassie. At least not completely. It’s about the power of smiling.
Why Botox Can Make You Happy (Not What You Think)
In recent years, studies have shown that botox treatment of your face can reduce negative emotions and even depression.
However, the reason is not that people suddenly have a more beautiful face. It’s facial feedback.
When you feel a certain emotion, that feeling will be reflected by your body in form a smile, frown, open posture, or confident stance.
But what’s more interesting is this: If you take a pencil and hold it sideways with your teeths, you will feel happier. If you stand up straight and use an open posture, you will feel more confident and powerful.
Research has shown that there’s a feedback mechanism connecting your brain and body, meaning that whatever postures or facial expressions you use will affect the way you feel.
If you frown, you will be sad. If you smile, you will be happy.
So the reason botox makes you happier is because it can paralyze the frowning muscles in your face. Try to be mad, sad, or frustrated while flashing a giant smile. It doesn’t work.
I have found smiling to be the easiest quickest way to change my state and be happier in an instant. Now, this is not about faking it or trying to suppress your negative emotions. It’s not about pretending like bad things don’t happen.
Smiling for no damn reason whatsoever has only one purpose: Feeling darn good!
You can get yourself depressed by frowning all day, so why not turn this around and actually enjoy life?
When you feel good, you also tend to make better decisions – working out, eating right, and working on your projects instead of wasting time watching cute cat videos and eating junk food to get yourself in a better mood.
Show me some smiles, people!
Why Gebrselassie Outran The World
Let’s go back to Gebrselassie, the smiling assassin. Over two decades of running, he won 10 gold medals and smashed 27 world records, all the while displaying his huge smile. And that might not be coincidence.
In 2012, research by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman showed that smiling can actually lessen the impact of stress and pain on your well-being. Simply holding a pencil between your teeths as described above helped people recover faster from stressful tasks. In another study, Pressman found that smiling could decrease the perceived pain and anxiety of getting a flu shot by 40%.
What that has to do with Haile Gebrselassie? Everything!
Running (like all endurance sports) is mainly an internal fight against your body’s feedback systems screaming at you to slow it down and take it easy. Unless you collapse at the end of the race, you have at least a little bit more to give.
And that’s where smiling comes in. When you smile during your run, you will experience less pain at any given pace, which means that you could run faster with the same amount of pain.
This might (at least partially) explain why Gebrselassie always had one more gear than his competitors. He simply out-smiled them!
Or you just enjoy your run more, which I have started doing. It’s unbelievable how much more fun and enjoyable my runs have become once I started smiling for no reason. It might feel weird at first, but trust me, it’s worth it!
Smiling Is Infectious
While I was searching for pictures of smiles for this article, I couldn’t help but smile myself. There is something infectious about seeing a big smile that makes us feel good.
In a Swedish study, Sonnby-Borgström found that showing participants pictures of a smile makes them smile automatically. Even when they were told to frown, they would first smile and then consciously change their facial expressions to a frown.
So next time you meet someone, smile. Nothing bonds more than a feel-good party for your brains!
Smiling may be the best (and certainly cheapest) antidepressant, stress reliever, painkiller, and mood booster on this planet. Instead of frowning at the world, show some teeths. You surely won’t regret it!
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