Recently, a mutual friend introduced me to Dr. Rich Castellano, the smile doctor. That chance encounter has changed my life for the better. Within minutes of speaking to Dr. Castellano on the phone, I could tell why he is called the smile doctor. I could not see his face, but I could “hear” and “feel” his smile. I did not think that was possible, but his personality and voice gave off such a radiance that it was easy to tell he was smiling, and it made me smile as well.
The experience was so remarkable, that I decided to read his best-selling book, The Smile Prescription, to find out why his smile was so powerful. I had no idea what impact a simple smile could have on my life, my business, and my relationships, before I read his book.
When you smile at someone, it has an instantaneous effect on both you and the receiver of your smile. You feel better and more confident and so does the person facing you. It is very difficult, almost impossible, to be upset and smile at the same time. It is also very difficult for the other person you are smiling at, to be upset. In fact, it is likely that the person you are smiling at will reciprocate with a smile, regardless of what they were feeling before they saw your smile.
It is difficult not to smile when facing a big smile right in front of you. When you smile back, you automatically feel better. Smiles are contagious.
You know this is the case before Dr. Castellano presents the hard data to prove it. Think about when you go into an office. How do you feel if you are greeted by a receptionist who is frowning? How do you feel when you are greeted by a receptionist that is smiling and happy? Which one of those receptionists do you want greeting the people who come into your office for an appointment? That receptionist gives your patients their first impression of you. Which first impression would you rather they get, a smile or a frown?
I’m a doctor, so I like to see evidence to back up my hypothesis. Sure enough, Dr. Castellano provided the evidence. He cites several studies in his book, but the one that caught my attention the most was a study done at the University of Kansas. They had people manipulate their faces into a neutral face, a fake smile (no eye involvement) or a genuine smile (eye involvement). They did this by having the subjects hold chopsticks in different places in their teeth. Chop sticks placed horizontally in your back teeth force your facial muscles into the genuine smile position.
The interesting thing about this is the subjects didn’t need to feel like smiling. It didn’t matter if they wanted to smile or not. They were simply forcing the facial muscles to move into the smile configuration. Their personal feelings or intentions didn’t matter. With the chopsticks in place, they put the subjects through some stressful tasks, measuring their stress response using their vital signs during each assignment.
The subjects with their face in the genuine smile position showed less stress response and a quicker recovery back to baseline than the other two groups.
The outcome from the study revealed, that how you currently feel has no bearing on the effects of a smile. It doesn’t matter if you want to smile or not, smiling will make you feel better, less stressed, and it is contagious. Those around you will feel better and feel less stressed also.
Imagine the implications of a smile in your medical office. You have the opportunity to increase the overall moral of your office simply by choosing to smile when you walk in the door. It is contagious, the staff will pass it around like a virus that will also be got caught by your patients. What would be the impact of your day if every staff member and every patient had a little brighter outlook while in your office? I think you would have a more enjoyable day at the office and return home in a happier, less stressed mood.
I think back to my own office and the offices I’ve worked in. I remember one particular staff member who constantly smiled. She was one of the highlights in my day. I loved walking into the office and being greeted by her smile. No matter how I felt when I got out of my car and headed for the door, the moment I saw her smile, I felt better. And I know every one of my patients was greeted by her when they walked in the door and she had the same effect on them. Their fears and anxieties of seeing a surgeon were lessened upon seeing her smile.
One of the doctors I once worked with had a very different vibe. When he entered the office, the staff never knew if he was going to be a Tigger or an Eeyore that day. Just a few minutes after he entered the office, the staff contracted his mood and it was evident what kind of day this doctor was having by what you would see on the staff’s faces. You have the power to influence your entire office with your smile, even if you don’t feel like smiling.
My wife and I have been testing this out. When I am doing something that I don’t like or am upset about, she is reminding me to smile while I do it. Sure enough, I feel better about the problem than I did before. She has become my “Smile Buddy.” A smile buddy is someone that Dr. Castellano challenges you to team up with in an effort to make each other smile. When you see each other, do something to bring out a smile in your buddy. Even though we both know the other is trying to get us to smile, it really works, smiling perks up our spirits. After becoming smile buddies, we started smiling more, which made both of us happier, even when we were doing a stressful job.
Right after reading Rich’s book, and becoming smile buddies with my wife, I had to dig up a broken drain pipe under the concrete in a bathroom. I was digging the hole with a scowl on my face. I really wasn’t happy to be there. Then my wife walked in and smiled at me and said, “Are you smiling while you dig?” It made me giggle and it put a smile on my face. I noticed an instant feeling change in my attitude and I decided to keep a smile on my face while I finished the job. The digging did became a bit easier. It reminded me of the song, whistle while you work, from the movie Snow White.
How I wish I had realized the impact of smiling earlier in my life. I think back at all the times I was sitting at the computer, mad because I was having a hard time entering my patient’s information into the electronic medical records software. I wonder if someone reading what I wrote could feel my anger. It would have been such a simple matter to put a smile on my face, give myself a better attitude, and write something that might feel better to future readers. I have seen H&Ps that gave me the impression that the doctor was mad when it was written.
I’m now convinced that smiling has great benefits and I need to strive to keep a smile on my face. To help me remember how important it is to smile, I put up a sign of a big smiling face in both my office and my bathroom. I hope I can become a better smiler for my sake and for the sake of those around me.
Pick up a copy of Dr. Castellano’s book The Smile Prescription and see if you can increase the smile factor in your life.
Rich Castellano, MD, is a double board certified plastic surgeon in Tampa, Florida whose practice is called ImageLift and can be found at imagelift.com. He also teaches doctors how to boost their practice income through his Practice Profitability course which you can find at practiceprofitabilitymd.com.