Times of Oman
Oman family: The importance of smiling
July 5, 2017 | 7:23 PM
by Farzeen Ashik
Studies have shown that happy children are more productive in school.
 
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As parents we often measure our success by looking at our child’s academic prowess or athletic abilities or advanced social skills. We spend our time finding them the right tutors, chauffeuring them from ballet to tennis lessons and making it in time for their play-dates. But there is something we can teach them that doesn’t need a Master’s degree or 100+teaching hours, and that’s smiling! When our children are babies we smile automatically, either because they are so damn cute or because we are so happy with ourselves for creating this little miracle. But as they grow older and the pressures of parenting begin to impinge on our daily lives we forget to smile as often as we used to.

I know, I know, smiles don’t come easy when you have to park your car a mile away and walk to school in 45 degrees heat for the after-school pickup or when you have been waiting for the last 30 minutes outside the mall for your teen who isn’t picking up her mobile (again!). But creating a home where smiles are plenty will give children, both young and old, the stable and secure environment needed for normal development. So parents, not only do we have a responsibility to smile but we must also make sure our children smile wider and more often. Here are some of the many advantages of smiling more:

Helps reduce stress

Don’t think your children are immune to stress. With pressure piling up at school to perform academically and in extra-curricular activities the little dears will be popping pills and seeing therapists if you don’t train them to alleviate stress right from the start. In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science, University of Kansas psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman studied 170 participants who were told to hold chopsticks in their mouths in three formations, making them smile to various degrees without realising it, after performing a stressful task. The experiment revealed that subjects who smiled the biggest with the chopsticks experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery compared to those whose expressions remained neutral.



Makes you more approachable and trustworthy

Who are you more likely to approach at a party, someone who is frowning into his plate or someone who is smiling from ear to ear? Smiling makes it easier to bond with your peers. A smiling child exudes confidence and can be seen as someone who is ‘friend-material’. Encourage your child to smile more and make eye contact at school or in other social situations.

Retrains your brain

When we are happy we smile, right? The reverse is also true. Our brain can be tricked into feeling happy by smiling. According to Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, by making smiling a part of our everyday practice, we help our brains create happiness loops that encourage more positive-thinking patterns. Our children need to understand from an early stage that the world will not always give them what they want. The best way to cope with this is to shrug off the pain and smile.

Increases productivity

Studies have shown that happy children are more productive in school. Children who smile more exude confidence and they do in fact achieve more. Eventually they grow into adults who will be high achievers.

Makes you more creative

Smiling makes the creative juices flow. A 2013 study done in University of California showed that happy people approach problems better and come up with more creative solutions than their negative counterparts. Getting your child to tackle problems at school with a smile and a positive attitude will help her resolve them quickly and with better results.

Improves your mood

Smiling can improve your mood. It releases endorphins and serotonin in your brain. (And especially if you have a teen in the house you need all the endorphins you can find.) Recent studies have revealed that through the enhancement of positive emotions — or the suppression of negative ones — with facial expressions, a person’s mood begins to align more strongly with the emotion his or her face is communicating.

Makes you healthier

Smiling has benefits even at a cellular level. Smiling can release tension on a cellular level as well, according to biochemist and artist Sondra Barrett. When our children smile their bodies relax naturally. This enables their immune systems to work normally and fight off infections and common ailments. This also means fewer trips to the paediatrician. — lifestyle@timesofoman.com

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