Psychology

The Vermont Cynic | A smile can stretch a mile

I have always been known as someone who is kind and smiles constantly.

Every morning, on my long walk from the Redstone campus to my classes on the Central campus, I see people I know or recognize.

Whether it’s an acquaintance from one of my classes or clubs or one of my friends, there always seems to be someone I’ve seen before on my way to campus.

Usually, when I see someone I know, I wave, smile at them, or say “hello”. Unfortunately, not everyone is as friendly as me and my smile is not always returned.

While it feels great when a smile is returned, it feels horrible when the gesture goes unrequited.

When we smile, our brains release stress-fighting neuropeptides, while releasing feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, according to a June 25, 2012 Psychology Today article.

Laughter is a positive feedback loop: the action makes us happier, and when we’re happier, we smile more. That’s why we know that a simple smile can change our whole mindset and make our day a little bit better.

Smiling not only helps one’s own mental health, but it can also brighten someone else’s day.

Being laughed made 60% of people more confident and 52% of people said they felt happier, according to a October 19 study by Study Finds.

College can be very stressful, and more people than we know are struggling. A smile to a friend, classmate, or even a stranger can go a long way.

Depression affects 45.1% of high school students, according to one February 7 Article in Psychology Today.

The percentage of college students with anxiety and/or depression is the highest since the study began in 2007, according to a February 25, 2021 article published by the University of Michigan.

These numbers are very high and we as a community can work together to lower them.

We can do this by learning from a psychological study published in 2013 that suggests the United States is split into three distinct “psychological regions.”

While people from the Midwest and South are considered “friendly and conventional” and those from the West Coast and Rocky Mountains as “laid-back and creative,” those from the Northeast are considered “temperamental and uninhibited,” according to the study on perceptions of the temperament of people by region.

The stereotype of the unwelcome Northeast leads to people in this region being described as “aloof, impulsive, irritable” and more likely to be neurotic, according to a November 18, 2019 article published by The Atlantic.

While this study suggests that people in the Northeast are stereotypically unfriendly, we have the power to change that. Being a university in the Northeast, we can prove the stereotypes wrong and be kinder to each other.

By simply smiling at our colleagues, we can make others smile, ultimately leading to a better, happier campus.

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