Yesterday was a lousy day. My trip to Tennessee to visit my brother was at its end.  He is recovering from a stroke and I hated to leave him.  I also hate going to the airport (I used to love flying the friendly sky) as there are always delayed flights which leads to angry people. Angry passengers mean tension and stressed filled hours in the waiting area and on the plane.

In fact, the early flight to Chicago was delayed 2 hours and they had room for Renee and I.  I was hesitant to switch flights as I was in no mood to deal with others’ frustration and anger.  Nonetheless, we switched.  Sitting at the gate I realized, to my amazement, that there were no angry, complaining passengers.  If they had spiked Kool-Aid, I wanted some.

So, why weren’t people angry, frustrated, acting out and pumping up their blood pressure as usual?  The answer became obvious when I noted that the flight attendants, M.W. and B.H., were smiling.  Both had disarming smiles.  It’s hard to have a bad day when someone is smiling at you, engaging you while sincerely apologizing to you and keeping you updated on conditions. 

Once on the plane I looked around the cabin and found lots of smiling passengers. Apparently, smiles really are contagious and the flight crew had infected everyone.  So, what does this have to do with health?

In my case, they helped alleviate some of the sadness I was feeling as I left my brother to head home.  My depressed mood was lighter and my anxiety about being in a tin can with angry individuals vanished.

I have been a doc for 40 years and the one thing my patients and colleagues agree on is that stress causes illness.  I’ve seen people who looked like they were going to stroke out screaming at gate agents and flight crews.  I’m sure some have. 

All this brings me to my point.  Many of my patients seek relief from stress in a pill.  Today, it was obvious that the treatment for stress is to find a great smile and spend enough time with it to let it infect you.  Your job is to nurture that smile and pass it on!

I hope United Airlines recognizes how precious these two flight attendants are.  I certainly do.  If you work for United Express, pass this article on.

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