Get Your Smile On
Last updated: May 2021
Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain. --Charlie Chaplin
I recently listened to a Webinar put on by the Texas Oncology Foundation that was called Survivorship: Your Story, Your Impact. It was nothing like what I expected it to be. In fact, the main takeaway that I got from it was the importance of smiling.
We're all wearing smiles
To tell you the truth, I may be preaching to the choir. When I think of my friends who are also lung cancer survivors, they all are wearing smiles. I swear they are literally some of the most optimistic and happy people I know.
Our ages are all over the map, from the 20s to 70s or more. Some have or had phenomenal careers, some never worked, many have had to retire. There are those with financial security and others of us who struggle to make ends meet. Some are parents, some are children, some are single, some are married. Some smoked, some didn't. Some are NED (no evidence of disease) and too many of us are still (or back) in treatment. We're all really different. And, yet, we are the same when it comes to smiling and looking at life's bright side.
Isn't that phenomenal? I mean, before you were diagnosed with cancer did you expect that you would be living your days full of happiness, smiles, and joy? Not me.
Smile for your health
There may be a reason why all of the cancer survivors I know are happy people. It could be that their bright outlooks and ready smiles play a part in why they're still beating their cancer. A 2016 article by Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. listed seven ways smiling affects your health.1
- Smiling improves your mood. It is impossible to smile and stay in bad spirits.
- Believe it or not, a 2009 study found that smiling can reduce your blood pressure and decrease your heart rate.2
- A 2015 study published by Psychological Science found that smiling, even when you don't feel like it, actually helps your body deal with stress more effectively. (And stress is something every cancer patient is, unfortunately, all too familiar.)3
- Several studies have shown that people who smile a lot have happier relationships. People are drawn to those who smile, they are perceived as being more likable.4,5
- Mayo Clinic published an article on the many benefits of smiling. The first long-term benefit it lists is an improved immune system. We all know how important a strong immune system is in our fight against cancer.6
- The same Mayo Clinic article shows that another long-term benefit of smiling and laughter is pain reduction. "Laughter," the article states, "may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers."6
- And, here's a biggie ... a 2010 study in Psychological Science found that smile intensity is linked to longevity.5
The other day, I saw a rock that someone painted. I copied it onto a rock of my own. It is so simple but so true. You can be happy or you can be mad at the world. It really is your choice.
So, go ahead. Turn up the corners of your mouth and make yourself chuckle. Force it if you must. It's important - it will change how you feel now and it just might even change your life.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?