S.T.O.P. Smile

A few weeks ago, I discovered Michael Chernow's podcast, Born or Made. Michael is best known for founding NYC restaurant, The Meatball Shop. In a recent episode with guest Will Ahmed (founder/CEO, Whoop), Michael shared a ritual for handling stressful moments:

"I do something called the 'S.T.O.P. Smile' ... If I'm feeling overwhelmed, which happens often, I literally stop, close my eyes, and smile from ear to ear for 15 seconds."

S.T.O.P. stands for:

  • Smile, pause, and breathe.
  • Transition from an overwhelmed state to patience.
  • Observe this new reality.
  • Proceed.

As I listened to the podcast, I couldn't help giving Michael's theory a try. He was right; smiling is transformative.

Michael describes the ritual as tapping into his serotonin. Out of curiosity, I turned to Google to learn more. According to this article (among many others), there's science behind every smile:

"When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas the serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate."

I always remind myself to take a deep breathe when a situation gets tense but I never thought to smile. I've enjoyed putting this simple ritual into practice.