The Power of a Smile

Last week in an email, I asked Middle School parents to share this message with their children regarding the upcoming school year: “be a friend and make a friend.”
As the new school year approaches, there is nothing more exciting than the prospect of reuniting with old friends and sparking new relationships. The school years are indeed about active learning and the pursuit of artistic and athletic challenges, but they are also about socialization. Learning how to interact with others in a healthy manner is fundamental to the upbringing of a child. In fact, respectful, thoughtful dialogue is indeed a requirement for an informed, deeply compassionate citizenry.

When children—and human beings of all ages—go out of their way to be inclusive as a part of the socialization process, a true sense of belonging takes root. As part of human nature, we all long for a sense of belonging and worth. When people feel needed and loved, the best of humanity shines through.
And often times, the path to friendship and inclusivity starts with a simple smile.
The benefits of smiling are well documented, such as increased relaxation, decreased blood pressure and more focus. Additionally, according to Psychology Today, smiling—either natural or forced—is contagious. “Each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain.”
Basically, smiling makes you and others around you happier and healthier. Furthermore, smiling, laughing, or giving a friendly wave result in increased eye contact, welcoming body language, and greater empathy—all contributing to a sense of safety and belonging in our communities.
As our world shifts beneath us, sometimes it’s hard to know how to untangle the complexities that face our society. On the simplest level, we can always start with a smile and a wave. This is the foundation of friendliness and inclusivity—bedrocks of a happy and healthy community.
There is no better time to share a smile, laugh, or handshake than at the beginning of a new school year. This year, the Middle School welcomes more than 35 new students. We are excited for our new families to join this strong community—please join me in smiling at each of them :).
For more on the power of smiling and laughing, check out NPR’s latest podcast for young children titled: WOW in the World; A Case FOR the Giggles
Director’s Summer Bookshelf
The Contract: Derek Jeter. Jeter Publishing, 2016.
Leading Change, by John Kotter. Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.
Thank You for Being Late, by Thomas Friedman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore. Spiegel & Grau, 2010.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.