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Smiling is considered one of the world’s most powerful gestures. Most of us don’t do it enough. We walk around with our heads down focused on our phones or worse, stare into oblivion concentrating on the million and one things going on in our heads, disconnected to everyone around us. I’m guilty. To other people I probably look like a grump on a mission, rarely bothering to say hello or taking the time to offer a smile. Well, it’s time for a change.

A few weeks ago I conducted a little experiment. I had several errands to run and I decided that I would smile at everyone I came into contact with throughout the day and at the very least wear a subtle Mona Lisa-ish smile as I journeyed to and fro. I wasn’t going to chase people down and grin at them like a lunatic, but I would at least make an effort to silently greet them with a smile.

It was important for my smile to be genuine or else I’d come off looking creepy. To maintain a genuine smile I focused on things and people who bring joy to my life and make me happy – my children, Will Downing (sigh), the fact that it was a Saturday and I didn’t have to go to work, and funny jokes.

This is what I learned from my smiling experiment:

Most people will smile back at you.

Children will ALWAYS smile back unless they are getting in trouble, sleepy, or in a bad mood. It’s probably natural curiosity but children seem to look for a friendly face. When they find one, they are eager to show that they are friendly too. Hmm…not a bad trait to carry into adulthood.

Men tend to smile AND say hello. Almost all of the men I crossed paths with returned my smile. But it didn’t just stop there. They opened doors for me, said hello and one guy even asked how I was doing. Creepy? Maybe. Friendly? I’ll go with that.

My overall mood was amazingly light. Of course one could attribute this to my sub-exercise of thinking good thoughts in order to maintain my smile. Although, I had to reign it back in a few times when I thought of something particularly funny. I wanted to smile, not walk around in public laughing to myself. Remember, I’m trying not to be creepy.

People seemed to be more pleasant. Maybe because I was in such a good mood I didn’t notice anyone being a sourpuss.

I like the quote that says, “Use your smile to change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.” Food for thought.

One thing I learned from my smile day was that I actually paid attention to people around me. Usually I’m in a “get all my tasks done” zone and don’t notice anyone or anything around me. Taking the time to give and receive smiles sparked a connection, if only for a moment.

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