Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 37

When We’re Smiling

“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…”

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

You may know the main lyrics of the song “When You’re Smiling,” popularized by Frank Sinatra and others:

“When you’re smilin’, when you’re smilin’
The whole world smiles with you . . .”

Well, it looks like lots of people will be smiling if they come to 900 Rutter in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania and see the smiling clown sculpture of our colleague, Carl Hammerschlag, MD. You may recall him as a well-known psychiatrist, really a national treasure, for his work with Native Americans and as a healing clown, among other things. He has written of his unique work for Psychiatric Times. As he points out in his 11/7/21 Schlagbyte blog—Spreading My Smile— genuine smiles, the smiles that include muscles of the cheeks and eyes, often convey welcome and kindness. The unveiling of the 5’x20’ sculpture was last week.

As I conveyed to Carl, I have my own story about the power of smiling in psychiatry. Once, I was going out in our busy clinic waiting area to pick up a new patient, which turned out to be a middle-aged Black woman. When I brought her into the office, she said that she was so glad I was to be her doctor. This was pre-internet, so she probably knew nothing about me. I thanked her for saying that and wondered why she felt that way. She said that I was the only doctor to come out and smile when they greeted their patients!

Research confirms the benefits. Smiling seems to improve relationships, mental health of the smiler, and maybe even lifespan. However, the meaning of smiling may very both across cultures and individuals.

So, when you smile, the whole world will not necessarily smile with you, but at the very least it can still be good for you.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.