I've done a lot of traveling in Southeast Asia over the last decade. And wherever I went, there were temples and statues of Buddha. And in so many of these statues, he was smiling. Now, the thought I originally had about this was that, "of course he's smiling ... he's a friggin' Buddha." But my work this past couple years with One World Academy plus some TEDTalks and recent articles have had me change the meaning I'm assigning to that gentle smile.
Many of meditations from OWA involve smiling. And when you first start participating in them, it can feel sort of awkward to sit with your eyes closed smiling, having absolutely no external reason for the smile, other than someone is asking you to do this. Let me give you my own experience and then share some of the links to the science behind it.
So, when I close my eyes and just sit there and breathe, then slowly bring a smile to my lips and face, it feels like my head comes to life. If I had to paint a picture of it, it would look like little champagne bubbles were going to the top of my head. My whole head gets brighter and golden, like someone turned the HUE lights in my head from dimmed white to bright yellow. Often following the smile, I'll have some past happy memory come to mind. (What is interesting here, is that I don't have to have the memory first to have a smile, I can smile and the memory come later.) All this is created for me, just by closing my eyes, breathing deeply and smiling. Try it for yourself! It‘s like being able to take a mood enhancing drug, without having to swallow some pill (I hate to swallow pills) and without having any side effects (can't even imagine a contraindication warning for smiling), and have it change your mood, your mind and your memories instantaneously. Wow! So maybe it's not that all these statues show Buddha smiling as if to say "hey, you'll be happy when you too are a Buddha," but rather, to show us the path.
As usual, I often think I discover something amazing and then find it is something that has been being researched and studied and talked about for decades. But for me this is wisdom ... wisdom being the knowledge plus the experience. So get the wisdom of smiling yourself. Ir can change your life, or at least your mood.
This plain written article links you to all the actual studies and abstracts. - "The Power of a Smile"
This article from Yale Scientific talks about the "genuine" smile and gives an example. - "The Subtle Smile"
Here is a short and information packed review of the superpower of a smile: "The Hidden Power of a Smile"
This is a favorite and how I met one of my best friends, "The Importance of Being Inauthentic"
If you really want to read more, here is an easy to read book on the topic: Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, by Ron Gutman.