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The Best Drug in the World

Never underestimate the power of a smile. If you’re a thrill seeking, risk-taking aficionado, then a smile is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal.

Why? Because a smile, quite literally, has the power to change the world.  If you think I’m exaggerating, try doing it for a day— a whole day—and see how you feel.

Smiles are infectious, they’re overpowering, and they’re good for you. Things don’t always work out in your favor, but a smile can change your whole demeanor when things go wrong.

You can’t make someone happy when they’re down, but a smile goes a long way towards helping.


A year ago, I was angry. I wasn’t happy with where I was, I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, and I wasn’t happy with the people around me. Ask anyone who knew me; I was unpleasant.

I was desperately unhappy. I had to change something, but I was overwhelmed and had no idea where to start. Then, I read a newspaper article about the effect of smiling on the chemistry of your brain.

Some research suggests that when you mimic a smile, even if you’re not happy, it causes your brain to release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin—the chemicals that make you happy. Cocaine works, too, but smiling is cheaper and the long-term effects are usually more positive.

Now, I’m not usually one to embrace that “happy, woo-woo, quasi-medicine” stuff. I’m a man, damn it. I don’t even take Tylenol when I hurt myself. The more and more I thought about it, though, the more sense it made to just try it. What harm could it do?

So, I started a 30-day trial. For one month, I’d attempt to change my demeanor just by smiling more. The frustration would come, and I’d just grin and bear it. I didn’t expect much. But it worked. Not only did it work, it changed my life, and I don’t mean in that TV infomercial weight-loss supplement kind of way. It actually made me happier. I started making serious headway in my life. I can remember exactly when things started to change; it was October 2009. I’d started my trial right after turning 25 and asking myself, “What the hell am I doing with my life?”

I started changing how I did my work and got a little bit happier. I started making big, new plans, and got a little bit more happy. I started changing the people I was hanging around with and got happier still.

Let’s get one thing straight, though. Smiling isn’t really what made me happy; changing my life is. Embracing more risks is what made me happy, but smiling got the ball rolling. Smiling when everything sucked is what allowed me to see that there’s always a bright side, even if it’s just in my head. It helped me past the apathy of my own situation so that I could actually do something about it.

I know that so many people are reading this right now and saying, “This a load of horse****.” Don’t lie, I know you are.

Try it. What could you possibly lose? This is one of very few opportunities in life that have an unlimited upside and no downside. It doesn’t take anything special to get started, and it’s free. No credit cards, no late night phone calls, no “3 easy payment” plans.

If you’re unhappy, start smiling. Force it. If you know someone who’s unhappy, smile at them. Doesn’t matter if you have a reason or not; you don’t need one. The power of a smile is a force to be reckoned with. If you want to change the world, start by smiling.

Where ever you are today, whatever it is you’re doing, however you might feel, I hope you take a second to try on a smile. It doesn’t have to be a big, cheesy grin—just turn the corners of your mouth up.

You won’t regret it.


Quick Reminder: My new digital guide, Instant Adventure: Valor Not Included, aimed at helping you take the biggest adventure of your life launches tomorrow morning. Make sure you stop by to pick up a copy.

Image by: Alberto+Cerriteño

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