Remember how you, as a child or an adult, would toss a pebble in a pond and watch the ripples spread out until they interact with the shore or branch or rock, which in turn would return its own responding ripples until everything melded together and smoothed out? That is what we do as humans; our own ripples interact with those around us, sometimes joining and building in intensity or eventually smoothing out after the initial contact, yet the others we have contact with send out their own ripples in their own ponds and on it goes.
For some reason I thought of this analogy a fair while back during one of our early morning swims at 5:30 a.m. We have a pretty dedicated “swim family” of regulars; most have been coming for years and even though we don’t necessarily interact with each other outside the facility, we loosely keep track of who is missing and whether it is a health reason, vacation or other. A few have come and gone over the years but it is a pretty solid routine as everyone has their set time and usual lane so when something changes that recurrence, it creates a ripple.
Another example of a ripple I have observed with our 5:30 a.m. crowd is because we are these timed to the minute creatures of habit, when there is a delay in the early morning swim routine; slow start, icy roads or a delay in getting in the water, we tend to be just slightly “off” for some of the day, having not fulfilled our day’s destiny of a set number of laps or circles around the river. This can have an impact with us sending out ripples, as well — slight for some, more for others.
How about starting a good ripple of your own? Do you know how much merely smiling at someone can change their day and ripple even further out? Face it; you have to be a pretty tough hard case, barring some personal disaster, to not return a genuine smile from another. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded. We all have probably experienced the converse — a totally miserable or uncaring person on the other end of the phone or in person — which can negatively resound for you and your interactions perhaps the rest of the day or longer if you carry a grudge.
“What’s in it for me?” some might ask. Well, my dear Watson, each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain, as smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness, releasing neuropeptides, dopamine, endorphins, serotonin — a little chemical factory in your head. Long story short, this assists in fighting stress and lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. The added benefit is when you smile, your brain is aware of the activity and actually keeps track of it. The more you smile, the more effective you are at breaking the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively. If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more often than it does negative ones. That ends up being a pretty good ripple.
Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.