The Secret to a Happier Family

The Secret to a Happier Family

How a Smile Changed Our Family Culture

What if I told you I’d discovered a secret that completely changed our family culture and the atmosphere of our home?

It’s silly, really, and incredibly obvious, but since we’d been overlooking it for so long, I’m going to share it anyway:

The power of a smile.

Now, I wrote a sponsored post a couple of weeks ago with that exact title, about the work that Smile Train is doing for children around the world.

And at the time, I was thinking that the power of a smile is the gift it bestows on the recipient.

What I’d completely missed, though, is the effect smiling has on yourself.

Then I read a post that Prerna wrote at The Art of Simple about the art of smiling.

Because I can’t help but reading the comments on any post or article, I stumbled upon this gem of a comment from Holly at Integrative Mom:

“I read somewhere that if you are in a bad mood or having a bad day, forcing yourself to smile actually releases chemicals in your brain and physiologically changes the way you feel. I tried it last week and it really really works!”

A few minutes later, the girls came stumbling down the steps, bleary-eyed and already bickering, and I decided to try an experiment: “Dylan, smile.”

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind, but I pressed forward. “That’s your consequence for the way you’re speaking to your sister. You may not get up from the couch until you smile.”

In that first incident, the absurdity of my request made her giggle, the bad mood banished…until the next time she got in a spat with her sister, at least.

This continued throughout the morning, with me requiring a smile anytime they fought, yelled, whined or argued. And the mood in our home got noticeably lighter.

Later in the morning, Sean was frustrated at something the girls did, so I challenged him: “I bet you’ll feel better if you smile.” He begrudgingly flashed me a sarcastic smile, and the frustration lifted.

For most of the day, I simply enjoyed my role of reminding everybody else to smile, but eventually I too got frustrated. Everybody jumped at their chance to tell me to smile. I really didn’t want to — sometimes we want to bask in our annoyance or frustration, you know? — but I did.

I can’t even tell you how much better I felt in that moment.

Of course, one day of smiles doesn’t mean anything. The first real test would come the next morning when the dog — the dog who drives me bonkers! — tried to eat my breakfast. I shrieked at her, so very angry, but after she slinked to her cage and I’d had a moment to reflect on my outburst, I pasted a fake smile on my face, meekly showing the girls all of my pearly whites, and we all burst into laughter.

While some of the novelty of this approach has worn off, it’s still amazingly effective. Smiling just feels good. I think it’s close to impossible to remain angry or frustrated when you smile. And so we keep reminding each other and creating habits.

To be clear, this isn’t about ignoring misbehavior or consequences; it’s about adjusting our approach before we deal with discipline issues. And it still amazes me how big of a difference it makes.

Making the decision to smile is the tough part, but if I can convince myself to do it, even halfheartedly, it works every time!

Who knew it could be so simple?

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I love this.

  2. This is my secret for EVERYTHING. Awkward situation, smile. Just turn on the mega-watt smile. Didn’t understand something someone said to you? Just smile 🙂 I smile and laugh at EVERYTHING. And I’m telling you… I love my life! Music helps too

  3. Great reminder of how a smile can change the day not only for the receiver, but for the giver. It all comes back to us making choices. We can choose to be disgruntled or we can choose joy. I appreciate your honesty about not feeling like smiling due to your frustration. That’s the hardest part – knowing what needs to be done, but not wanting to do it. Thanks for sharing this great reminder.

  4. Mandi, So what’s a mom to do when the girls are gone and there’s time for a clean house, laundry to be finished on the same day and the lawn kept neat??? I have a 9 yr old son but its just not the same.

  5. This reminded me that I was told by a Mom that she smiled through all her contractions when she gave birth for this same reason-that it releases those happy chemicals. I did it for most of my labour with my second child. I had completely forgotten that I did that!

  6. I wish I had read this before I gave birth the last time; I’d love to try it and see if it makes a difference, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen! 🙂

Comments are closed.

Close Menu