One of the first things I have noticed about the BGS community is how friendly it is; standing at the school gates in the mornings and walking around the corridors, I am frequently greeted with cheery smiles. In fact, the smiles and little chats I have with the students at the gates are far better than a morning coffee for starting the day in the right way! These small encounters led me to thinking about the importance of human interaction, and particularly smiling and laughing together. We have spent so much time apart from one another over the last few months, that we must cherish these moments of togetherness and prioritise opportunities to connect with each other in real life.
As I explored the importance of smiling and laughter, I uncovered some fascinating facts which may emphasise why we should incorporate these elements in our day-to-day lives. Both laughter and smiling have been proven to have many health benefits, both psychologically and physiologically. The most obvious one is stress relief, but they can also help stimulate organs, soothe tension and strengthen our immune system. Laughter is a bonding experience, it helps us feel connected to one another, feel part of a group and demonstrates that we trust each other; this is why it is so often contagious. Smiling is so powerful that studies have shown that its effects can be felt even down the telephone and that even faking a smile can lead us to feeling happier. People believe that those who smile frequently are more confident and successful. Interestingly, the philosopher John Morreal believes that we laugh as a sign of shared relief after a passing danger. Surely, therefore, this is the antidote we need, as we live in the constant uncertainty of the pandemic, our shared laughter and smiles may help carry us through.
But what about the effect of wearing masks on our ability to recognise smiling? This was the question I posed to the girls during an assembly, with many believing our faces being covered had a negative impact. However, initial research has indicated that a smile can still be recognised through the movement around our eyes, even though our mouths are covered. Though it may be more difficult to recognise our smiles behind our masks, it is certainly not impossible and I encourage the students to still connect with each other in this way, even when wearing their masks.
I am not the only person encouraging smiling in the school; the Girls’ Leadership Group has recently launched its One Smile campaign, which will be running all year. Did you know that adults only smile on average around 20 times per day compared with an average of 400 for children? So I have challenged the students to not only find ways to make themselves smile and laugh, but also to help the adults around them to smile more frequently too. So whether it be through watching sitcoms together or finding funny animal clips on YouTube or swapping silly stories, I hope you all manage to find plenty of ways to share laughter and smiles with your daughters in the weeks ahead. So on that note I shall leave you with a quote from someone whose name is synonymous with a kindly smile and the positivity they contributed to the world around them:
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do” Mother Teresa