Imagine waking up one morning three months into the pandemic and realizing you cannot remember the last time you smiled. One morning not too long ago, I woke up and had that exact realization.
Living alone, working remotely, and limiting my social interaction left me feeling sad and alone, with little reason to smile. In that moment, I recognized that the emotional effects of the pandemic could potentially cause me as much harm as the physical effects.
In the midst of COVID-19 uncertainty and social unrest, I am constantly searching for what I can control. The simple act of smiling is one of those things. As I reflected further, I wondered if I could force or fake a smile in order to trick my mind into feeling happier? It inspired me to research the power of a smile, from how it can affect my own mood, to how it can uplift others. This led me to Annika Horn and the Global Health & Well-Being team at SAP, who share the same passion.
Science Says: Smile!
Smiling is not just a symbol for happiness; it has chemical and physiological benefits that create feelings of joy in the body. Smiling releases feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, including endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. The act of smiling reduces stress, relieves pain, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and improves mood. Rather than wait until things get better, I was encouraged to find out that I could improve my mood on my own – with small intentional behaviors, like forcing or faking a smile. Just thinking about it made me chuckle!
I also found scientific evidence that smiling is contagious, and that simply smiling at someone can boost my own happiness, as well as theirs. The explanation is that smiling cultivates a strong sense of connection and engagement between people. A smile universally stands for a friendly and kind interaction positively reassuring us that we are not alone. Smiling during the COVID-19 crisis brings us closer together socially, despite the need for physical distancing. Even behind a mask, a genuine smile is discernible. As the corners of your mouth turn up, facial muscles contract and laugh lines appear near the eyes.
Although smiling may not provide a cure-all solution to the many challenges we face, science shows it can play an important role in improving our mood.
Mental Health and Well-Being at Work
We all experience mental health challenges at some point in our lives, such as grief, problems at home, or work stress. Left unmanaged, these challenges can evolve into mental illness and carry over to our work, where they can impede productivity and teamwork. On World Mental Health Day, SAP addressed the topic in more depth. Since this year has proven difficult for most of us, Annika and I said to each other, “Let’s leverage the power of smiling to promote happiness and well-being among our colleagues.” After all, small acts of kindness and sharing smiles can go a long way in cultivating positive working relationships.
The Link Between Technology and Smiling
Given the benefits of smiling, we started to reflect on intentional ways to spread this positivity. What if we got reminders to smile, or received things that made us smile throughout the day?
At SAP, we believe technology can help the world run better and improve people’s lives. That is why in celebration of World Kindness Day, we are launching the “Share a Smile” function on Fit@SAP, a fun activity platform available to SAP’s entire global workforce.
Fit@SAP allows colleagues to connect with each other through their health and activity goals. Now enhanced with this new “Share a Smile” functionality, it can spread more happiness and well-being to colleagues everywhere. We believe this software solution is a creative and innovative way to make our work, and the world, a little brighter.
“Share a Smile” allows colleagues to identify one or more recipients, write a personalized note, and share a picture that will make fellow employees smile. Fit@SAP users can also view their smile history in case they want to look back at a positive memory on a tough day.
Share Smiles for World Kindness Day
By combining the power of smiling with genuine acts of kindness, we hope to spread well-being not just within the virtual walls of SAP, but also beyond our company borders.
As a global company, SAP has a diverse workforce comprised of different cultures, languages, and appearances. But we all have one thing in common: the universal language of smiling. After all, kindness is the contagion that brings us together. We encourage everyone to share a smile not just today, but as often as you can. By committing to spreading smiles, we all have the power to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Join us in celebrating World Kindness Day on November 13:
- Post something that makes people smile, tag three others, and encourage them to do the same. Use hashtag #shareasmile for your posts.
- Engage in small, deliberate acts of kindness. Need ideas? Check out #BeKind21
- Follow our social media campaign on @LifeAtSAP and @SAP4Good.
Julie Barrier is global vice president of Purpose and Brand Experience at SAP.