A short and sweet message for this week.
When we shift our mindset away from a victim mentality and toward gratitude we start to see the world as for us, not against us. We believe that even the hardest times present opportunities to learn. We understand that the contrast of positive and negative is important to feeling alive. We can laugh off the small things and stop looking for the next big threat to crush us. We don’t look to validate the terrible, but instead to see the amazing.
We can smile in moments, even if overall we are experiencing discomfort, uncertainty, sadness, loss, or pain.
Smiling helps you live longer, reduces stress, improves your mood, boosts your immune system, helps you stay positive, and reduces pain. And scientific studies prove that just the act of smiling (even if you aren’t feeling super smiley or authentically joyful), is good enough to enjoy the benefits. And, with enough practice, eventually it will come easier.
If you have watched me race, you know that I smile almost the entire time. I genuinely feel happy directly alongside the discomforts of racing. I appreciate the willingness of volunteers and friends and family to come out and support something that I love so much. I smile to manage the discomfort and to remind myself of how grateful I am. When I stop smiling it is not only an indication of the discomfort in my physical body, but gives direct insight into the internal struggle. I know that scientifically it is smarter to keep smiling, but my unruly brain is trying to manifest comfort and ultimately failure in my goals… all to be “easier.” The struggle can cause me to lose site of gratitude and deny acceptance of the short term pain. If I give in I will know that I potentially run the risk of giving up.
But, now I have added another tool to my mental checklist for my next race: just keep smiling.
The best athletes believe in the importance of smiling. Last year, top-ranked marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge ran 26.2 miles in just two hours and 25 seconds in Monza, Italy, as part of Nike’s Breaking2 project. His time, although not record-eligible, is the fastest marathon time ever recorded, and the effort required to clock it was undoubtedly grueling. This year, the man himself went on to set a new marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon, crossing the line in 2:01:39. Yet in both marathons, Kipchoge never let the pain show on his face. In fact, it appeared as if he was actually grinning at times.
No, he was not trying to mock his competitors: Kipchoge later told reporters he was smiling to relax and work through the pain, employing a strategy some runners have long believed to be true: that smiling while running can help you to run more efficiently. (From runnersworld.com)
If it is free, possible, and good enough for Kipchoge, it is definitely good enough for me.
Like yawning, smiling is also contagious. It is like sharing a happy drug with someone else who then can experience the benefits mentioned above. We have all seen quotes, memes, or other social media posts that declare how someone improved another’s day just with a smile.
Smile. Even if your mouth is covered in a mask- the eyes show it too. Fake it if you need to- the benefits are worth it. The world is here for you to live a present, meaningful, whole, service-filled existence. It will help you reach your goals, live a generally happier life, and it is the easiest thing you can do for others.
If you consider all of the effort we put into reaching any big goal— the money, energy, time… blood, sweat, tears… why not add smiling to that list?
Masked up or not, I hope you are smiling as you read this. And continue to all day. It is worth it.