smiling

Reviving the art of smiling

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by Prerna Malik

Living in India with a heart that wishes to see the world, Prerna works with her husband, bakes with her daughter, shares her life at The Mom Writes and frees up time and creates content and community for time-starved entrepreneurs at Social Media Direct.

Being more of a homebody than anything else, I’ve been trying to make an effort to get out of the house more often, simply to just be outdoors and get some much-needed Vitamin D.

During my short trips outside the four walls of my home, I’ve noticed a strange but increasingly common trend: unsmiling people.

I’m guilty of it, too.

Here’s why I feel the act of smiling at others is dying a slow death:

1. We’re too busy looking down at our smartphones. This one is me. *sigh*

2. We’re becoming increasingly distrustful of other people, even neighbors.

3. We’re wary about making new friends.

4. We’re more comfortable being friends online, rather than in real life. Guilty of this one as well.

5. We’re busy, rushed, stressed, worried, or all of these.

Smiling is good not only for our own health, as studies have shown, but is a simple way to forge a bond, an unspoken way to say “hello”, an indication of your interest in the other person.

Just spending a little time with my daughter in the park shows me how often (or rather, how rarely) I smile at those around me. She’s a smiler, my little girl, as are most kids.

A smile is a simple way to form a connection, an easy, unspoken way to say, “Hello there!” or “I care.”

Here’s how to make smiling at others easier (and this is a note to myself, as well):

1. Look up and around you when you’re out for a walk, at the store or in the subway. Looking up from our tablets, iPods or smartphones is a

2. Start small, if it feels strange. Smile at the person in the elevator – most likely, someone who lives in the same building as you do. Or smile at the barista in the coffee shop you frequent. They may not return it {because they, too, may have forgotten} but that’s okay! Keep at it!

3. Set a small goal. I have a goal of smiling at three people when I go for my walk. Three may seem tiny to many, but for an INTJ like yours truly, it’s a mountain to climb.

4. It’s okay if it feels strange. It’s like learning to swim or walk, for that matter. It seems difficult and odd and then, before you know it, it’s second nature.

5. Notice the difference it makes in how you feel. I come back from my short walks feeling more energized and happier. Smiling does that. It just makes you feel happy inside. Tough to feel grumpy when you’re smiling, right? Try it.

6. Notice how it opens up opportunities for new friendships. You wouldn’t become friends with everyone you smile at and that’s perfectly fine. But every once in a while, someone you smile at might stop by and say “hello”, and that could be the start of a lovely friendship.

This spring, when you head out to enjoy the gorgeous weather, remember to smile at one person, other than friends and family. How can you help smiling make a comeback this season?

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Comments

  1. I think technology seems to be the main culprit. At least for me anyhow, I was in the same store as one of my friends who literally called me to tell me she was looking right at me trying to get my attention but I was sending a text or something.

    How can I be accountable for smiling when I’m barely aware of my surroundings?! Lol!

    Great article nonetheless, I will definitely try and make conscious effort to smile now.

  2. Smiling is a gift (a FREE gift, no less) that you can give to others and to yourself. Smiles are contagious and powerful – an instant mood lifter for yourself and, more than likely, anyone you share your smile with.

    I’m an ENFP, so smiling (and laughing) is a natural state for me (most of the time), whether I am looking at my phone or at the world…I consider it one of my gifts that I can share with others. And if people who are less inclined to smile decide to give it a try, they may feel like they are basking in the glow of human sunshine. How awesome is that??

    Great post!

    • That’s what I tell my kids…that a smile is a gift they can give that might mean so much to someone. You never know when you are smiling at someone who really needed it.

  3. Thank you for this reminder! I’m an introvert, but also an observer, so I do look at people when I’m out, but I tend to wait and see if they smile or speak first. Then I feel disappointed when an opportunity to connect passes me by. Having my 1 year old son with me makes it both harder and easier- he’s so cute that everyone smiles at him, but then I can’t get any attention for myself!

  4. I read somewhere that if you are in a bad mood or having a bad day, forcing yourself to smile actually releases chemicals in your brain and physiologically changes the way you feel. I tried it last week and it really really works! (I was having one of the worst days in recent memory, and smiling changed everything!)

  5. Or go even further, and *talk*. Just read this great article: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/26/opinion/sunday/hello-stranger.html?referrer=

  6. I agree! I recently wrote about smiling on my blog. Thanks!

  7. I am a thinker and frowner by nature, not because I’m regularly upset, but just because I’m usually concentrating on something. When I started graduate school, the other students called me “mean girl” behind by back because of my furrowed brow and frowny face. They later learned that it was just my “paying attention” face.

    Yesterday, I was in the back seat of a car (a shuttle from the car mechanic’s garage to my workplace), and I could see myself in the rear-view mirror. I noticed the down-turned lines around my mouth and saw how pinched I looked. I could see my aging skin pouching a bit around the corners of my mouth. As an experiment, I tried just the slightest smile. The pinched look went away, as did the frown lines, and even my brow changed. It was *barely* a smile, but my whole faced looked different.

    I need to try on that smile more often. Thanks for the additional encouragement!

  8. My husband tells me all the time to smile more. I started noticing that he’s right. I never smile. Neither does my daughter. We have started “smile therapy” as I call it. It feels a little unnatural but I hope that will pass as we get used to it again.

  9. avatar
    Melissa McIntyre says:

    I suppose I’m convinced it IS possible to be a mix of personality types. Over the past few years I have taken that test several times. Usually when someone writes a blog post and links to it, like today. I’m either INTJ or INFJ every time. Last week when Tsh posted I came out INFJ when the time previous (maybe a year ago) I was INTJ. Today I am INTJ again. Hmm…. Weird. As for the smiling, I completely agree! I tend to have an angry looking thinking or busy face so I have made a conscious effort to smile more often anyway. My husband and children still sometimes ask what’s wrong and I’m like “nothing, just thinking!” I have made it a habit to smile at nearly everyone when I’m out of the house either to be a good role model for my children, cheer up the grouchy people and phone zombies, or honesty just to see what the other person will do!

    • I read somewhere once that your personality type changes throughout the years. I did the test at one of my previous jobs where we not only learned our types (I’m INTP), but also what to what scale we were at for each letter. So, like if I is 1 and E is 100, you would be considered I at 1-50 and E at 51-100. If you take the test one year and you were a 48, you could easily rank a 52 the next year. Not much difference in number, but huge for the change in letters.

  10. I think this is so important! I have tried to make myself smile more at the people I live with. With 5 kids I am often running around like a crazy woman at home. I need to stop and and smile and hug and enjoy those little ones around me!

  11. avatar
    Megan in Maine says:

    Oh Tsh, I can’t agree with you more to smile more. I homeschool and the one gift I know I’ve passed on to my children is to make anyone’s day with a smile and a “Hi!” or “Good Morning/Day” and a “Have a good day/afternoon/morning!” I remind my children each day that it might have made someone’s day to have received this very easily given gift.

    The other day, we smiled at someone in the jewelry section at the craft store. She was searching as we were at the same spot. After sharing smiles and greetings from my children and myself, she proceeded to freely offer 20 min of much appreciated guidance in making jewelry. She did not have to do this, but a smile is what welcomed our introduction. Just look up and greet the feet you see below. We now make jewelry with great passion and freedom thanks to a smile and conviction to give to the unknown.

    And if I’m allowed a few more lines, smile at anyone who you think is over the age of 60. It might make their day. We homeschool and often this generation is at stores during the day when we are. Smiles are worth millions to them. Just share a little love. This, from the INFJ.

  12. avatar
    Courtney says:

    Great post, it did give me a chuckle. As an American living abroad for several years I’ve tried to stop my oh so ‘American’ habit of smiling at people! It seems ingrained though, and I do it automatically.

  13. avatar
    Lee Ann says:

    I was just going to comment how many friends from foreign countries have commented how much Americans smile. Also how polite we are about lines and organizing ourselves in crowds! So I guess its part of who we are. Considerate it your patriotic duty. Hope we don’t lose this as part of our fabric.

  14. I’m also a smiler and I tend to do it even living abroad – unless I’m on public transport, which is probably the place that needs it the most.

  15. I try to smile when I am out and about. Because smiles tend to beget smiles. I also have made it a habit to greet the people I pass on my runs with a “good morning.” It is an easy way to bring sunshine into someone’s life.

  16. What a great reminder to just SMILE, it’s so sad that we need a reminder to do this right? I find myself staring at my smart phone as well rather than looking at people and sharing a smile so I am going to consciously try to do this more.

  17. I’m so thankful to live in a place where talking and smiling are so ingrained (New Orleans). New Orleanians talk to one another wherever they are. They almost can’t help it. When I’m in a store buying something, I always smile and I find both I and the sales person end up feeling good and happy (I can tell).

  18. I think it’s the INTJ personality type you have that has made this an issue. Really, as an ENFJ, I’ve always smiled on the street and never thought twice about it. Whether or not the smile is returned.

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  20. This is such a great post. so simple. so true. so needed. I have cut way down on the smart phone when out and about and when kids are with me. I feel so relaxed and my mind is less cluttered. thanks for inspiring me.

  21. How I’ve changed. I’m an expat living in Taiwan who would often nod and smile at another foreigner walking towards me. However, I stopped doing it when I noticed that few people take the initiative to do so.

    My friend made me laugh the other day. He told me that where he is from in England if a stranger smiles and says hello to you as he passes you by he’s called a nutter. Lol

    I guess I should resume smiling outside if for no other reason than to thaw the world out.

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