Do you know what I love the most about not having to wear a mask anymore? It’s not that I finally don’t have to smell my own breath constantly, or that I can more easily breathe pacing through stores or walking up stairs or even that eventually (hopefully) this mask acne will clear up and go away so I don’t look like a teenager going through puberty.
While all of the above are some of the reasons I am excited to finally be out in a mask-free world again, what I love the most – what I missed the absolute most – is finally seeing all the smiles again and getting to share mine.
Seriously, guys, smiling is so important. Psychologists have found that smiling – even if you are faking it or making yourself smile – boosts your own endorphins and actually lifts your mood. You can really make yourself happier just by making yourself smile. Talk about truly taking control of your own happiness.
It is also noted that those same endorphins may relieve stress, lower blood pressure and even strengthen your immune system. I mean, after the last 15 months that we have all had, who couldn’t use all of that! (I also feel the need to note that I am not a doctor and do not condone forgoing any prescribed meds just because your smile can now be seen again).
But think about it, smiling is the universal way of showing happiness. It doesn’t matter what language you speak – everyone just knows what a smile is saying. And now, finally again, everyone can know when you are happy or even just content.
That was almost the worst part of it all – I still smiled underneath that mask, but no one but I knew it. Heck, for all they knew I was frowning. Or, sometimes, for all I knew, everyone around me was sad. I never got to see their smile. In fact, if something good did come out of it, it may be that we actually had to speak or say some sort of “hi” this past year or so. Since, normally, a smile would have been a warm enough welcome when passing in the hall and with a mask on it was unknown if your presence actually made someone angry or not.
And while I am more than fine with taking that small talk with me now, I also enjoy the fact that I can again just catch someone’s eye as they pass by and offer a quick curve of happiness to hopefully let them know that I am just glad to see them – stranger or friend. Because, smiling, it is contagious. Like actually proven, contagious. And well, we all need something a little more positive to be so darn contagious these days.
Genuinely, I love the fact that I get to see other peoples’ smiles again. I love that I do not have to guess moods or wonder what others may be thinking. Whew, good! They are smiling, all is well.
And I absolutely enjoy sharing my smile with the world around me. Trust me, it is far from perfect – but that’s the thing about smiles, they don’t have to be fit for a model to spread the love. They just have to … be. The upturn of the lips can bring joy to someone who just may need it that day – or any and every day.
But, for real, try it. For one day, smile at everyone you see out and about. If you are not really feeling it, do it anyway. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Then, count how many people flash you that smile back. It feels good – making others smile – just the act of being smiled back at.
After such a dark and gloomy recent past, what does it hurt to spread a little sunshine with just a tiny act? It is literally time to brighten the world around us and can actually be started with something as simple as a smile.
These last 15 months have been rough – and many have been hiding behind masks for not only protection from the virus but also trying to deal with the emotions of just everything that has swept the world that no one was prepared for or ever imagined would happen.
As we open back up, as life finally starts to feel somewhat normal again, I invite you to not only take off the mask (if you feel comfortable with it), but also to embrace your ability to bring back a small thing that so many have missed for such a long time.
I, for one, will be out there celebrating one of the things I love most around a mask-free world again – giving out and taking in all the smiles.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.