ALTHOUGH it lasts only a moment, the memory may stay with you all your life. Its value is immense, but nobody is so poor that he cannot share it or so rich that he does not need it. What are we talking about? A smile.
A smile is produced by a muscular contraction in which the eyes brighten and the corners of the mouth curve slightly upward expressing satisfaction. During the first few weeks after birth, a baby smiles, and this, of course, delights the proud new parents. These early smiles are known as reflex, or involuntary, smiles. Experts explain that this kind of smile appears often during dreaming and seems to be related to internal feelings and activity of the central nervous system. Even when we are adults, this reflex smile may still occur after a meal or while we are listening to music.
From about six weeks of age, however, a baby smiles in response to a face or a voice. A 'social smile'-a voluntary, conscious smile-cheers us up, whether we are babies or adults. It is said that such a smile even has a positive influence on our physical health. According to speech therapists Mirtha Manno and Rubén Delauro, who manage a self-help clinic called Smiling and Health, the mere gesture of smiling produces an electrical stimulus that affects the pituitary gland. This gland, in turn, releases endorphins, chemical substances in the brain that make us feel good.
Another important reason for smiling is the positive effect it has on others. A sincere smile communicates our feelings without the need for words, whether it be a smile of greeting, of sympathy, or of encouragement. Occasionally, just looking at a child's appealing smile in a photograph can bring a smile to our lips.
Receiving a warm smile can help us to feel more relaxed and to cope better with frustration or challenges. Yes, by this simple gesture, we can benefit ourselves and others. Why not make an effort to share this most valuable gift-a warm smile?