A Smile Can Go a Long Way

May 30, 2013

I think that we should have more mirrors everywhere.

Not because I am vain and want to look at myself continuously and preen. No, not even close. I am convinced that most of us are totally unaware of our facial expressions most of the time, how sour and unpleasant they can be and more importantly, how they affect the seniors that we are caring for.

When I taught high school I used to talk to my students about 'face crimes', those incredible contortions of the face that appeared on teenagers' faces when asked to do something that was not really on their agenda. This included the rolling of eyes, pursing of lips, and so on. I believe in most cases they were barely aware that they were doing this, just a really bad habit, but the effect could elicit huge reactions from the receiver.

I have observed that those of us caring for our own seniors, and those with the job of caring for the elders of others, often fall into this trap. Not that we, like teenagers, purposely give negative non-verbal communication, but sometimes the days are long and the jobs repetitive and we fall into an automated state of efficiency lacking humanity. It is especially easy to do when the person we are caring for offers little or no verbal communication.

These are the seniors that need the most animation from us, the most communication. Certainly none of these comments are brain surgery or new. We know all this, but sometimes we just need a wake up call, a wee shake.

The easiest way to convey friendship, support and happiness is by smiling. It is a great habit to develop. Amazing that such a simple thing that can bring such huge benefits.

The medical profession reinforces time and time again that people of all ages and stages stay healthier and get healthier when they have a positive attitude. We all need smiles!

The famous California educator, Leo F. Buscaglia , wrote that “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

And one of my favourite singers, Paul Simon, summed up the essence of this blog post when he said, "I've got nothing to do today but smile.”

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