Smile every day
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During the past year, the Church's Young Women general presidency has issued a simple challenge to youths worldwide: Read the scriptures every day, pray every day and smile every day.
They promise that if a person does these things every day, 100 percent of the time, it will change the world. "From small and simple things great things will come to pass," said Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president.
And while the youths may feel like reading the scriptures and praying every day are hard things to do, Sister Dalton says the most challenging part of the formula may also be simplest: smiling. (See Church News, "Forever Young — Leaders reunite," Nov. 22, 2008.)
Who knows if a smile can change the world, but research shows that it certainly can improve a person's life.
A recent study found that a habit of genuine smiling may contribute to happiness and better adjustment in life.
Researchers in the study looked through 141 photos in a Mills College (Oakland, Calif.) yearbook and separated out genuine smilers from inauthentic ones. The smilers were contacted at age 27, 43 and 52 and asked about the status of their marriage and life satisfaction.
The women with the genuine smiles were more likely to be married and stay married. They were also more likely to experience greater sense of personal well-being. These results were found to be consistent in a 30-year follow up ("A Genuine Smile Goes a 'Long Way,'" Vijai P. Sharma, www.mindpub.com).
For many years the conventional wisdom has been that people are happy because they are successful. But additional researchers, who analyzed 225 studies involving 275,000 people, found the truth might be just the opposite — that people are successful because they are happy.
Happy people are easier to work with, more highly motivated and more willing to tackle difficult projects. Thus they are more likely to be successful, found a 2005 study published by the American Psychological Association ("Smile For Success," Dec. 21, 2005, ABC News).
And a 2008 study shows that people who don't smile have a negative impact on their friends, and even people they don't know.
Each happy friend a person has boosts their chances of happiness by 9 percent. Having grumpy friends decreases it by about 7 percent, found researchers in a paper published last December in a British medical journal ("Smile! Study says being happy can be contagious," Deseret News, Dec. 5, 2008).
It might also be interesting to note that the researchers found that money cannot buy happiness. According to the research, extra money increased a person's odds of being happy only marginally — notably less than the odds of being happier if you have a happy friend.
So, during this time of economic doom and gloom, Church members should find things to smile about.
"Be happy," said President Gordon B. Hinckley in a 1978 Church Educational System fireside address. "Let that happiness shine through your face and speak through your testimonies."
President Hinckley noted that he met many people "who constantly complain about the burden of their responsibilities."
"Of course," he said, "the pressures are great. There is much, too much, to do. There are financial burdens to add to all of these pressures, and with all of this we are prone to complain, frequently at home, often in public. Turn your thinking around. The gospel is good news. Man is that he might have joy."
President Hinckley said he enjoyed the words of Jenkins Lloyd Jones written in a June 12, 1973, Deseret News column: "Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed.
"Most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.
"Life is like an old-time rail journey — delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
Abraham Lincoln put it another way: "Most folks," he said, "are about as happy as they make their minds up to be" (www.quotesdaddy.com).
Church members, said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, "have so much to smile about, be happy about, yes, even to laugh about."
Yet, often, he said, many of us wait to show our smile. "Don't wait for tomorrow. Don't wait for the right job, the right house, the right salary, the right dress size. Be happy today. Be happy now. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life," Ensign, December 2000, 7).
So read your scriptures, and pray every day, 100 percent of the time. But in the process, don't forget to smile.
If you do, you might just change the world.