I’ll bet you’re not doing it right now as you read this post. So take a moment and stick with me. Turn off the phone, close your email, and smile. That’s right. Smile. Why, you ask? Why not?
This morning when I walked into my local Starbucks for that daily injection of caffeine, I stepped into the line of about 6 or 7 like-minded coffee fans. One of the Starbucks employees, who was busy tending to the hot breakfast sandwiches, she looked up at me and in that brief moment of familiarity and recognition and said, “Hi, wow—you are always smiling. Why are you so happy?” And though the sky was grey and with the slight drizzle dampening the tables and chairs outside, I said “because it’s an outstanding day.”
Her reaction caught me off guard for a moment, but it made me feel good. First, she recognized me as a regular customer. Then, my smile triggered her memory of me smiling. Perhaps she’s never seen me any other way. Because I do smile, a lot. Even when I have reasons to dwell on problems, conflict or disappointment, I find reasons to smile.
Too often we are guarded, fearful or simply too drawn into ourselves and our activity — and our iPhones — that our concentration prevents us from smiling or enjoying the simple pleasure of being. Some of are simply waiting for a push or external event to make us smile. While I walked into the supermarket next to Starbucks, I noticed a woman walking toward the entrance. Her head was buried into the iPhone that she clenched in her hand along with her purse. She looked slightly tense and moved with purpose. She wasn’t smiling. Then as she tapped the screen of her phone she smiled. At that moment she seemed relaxed and her pace of purpose changed to one of rhythm and cadence. That simple change, her smile, positively impacted her presence. Yet it was prompted by something she saw or read on her phone.
Sure, it’s a bit optimistic and many of you will say unrealistic, but it’s worth a try. Maybe you can do it 75% of the time. Think about it. Think and smile. How about 50%. If that woman and her phone was smiling before she looked at her iPhone, I’ll bet her reaction and the feeling she experienced from that visual would’ve been even more powerful — impactful.
[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”right” cite=”Allan Karl, WorldRider”]Smiling makes you and others feel and look better!Are you smiling yet?[/pullquote1]
Even better, when we smile at people — at strangers — we have a positive impact on them. Most often, if you smile at anyone, they will smile back. It’s contagious and natural. It works. When we smile, we feel better and we make others around us feel better too. When everyone is feeling better, it’s easier to work, to play and to be.
When I review photographs from my journeys around the world, while the impressive landscapes and natural beauty leave me in awe, it’s the photos of people — smiling — that moves me most. The beauty within and the essence of these subjects is defined by their smiles. Yet one must be open, available and smiling in order to capture such beauty and essence. Spreading smiles is easy because smiling is contagious. Try it.
In every way possible, smiling makes you and others feel and look better!Are you smiling yet? Still? Another reason to smile is for your health. Smiling is good for you because it actually lowers your blood pressure (the woman with the phone?). Smiling actually reduces levels of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increases levels of endorphins, the primary mood-enhancing hormone. In his legendary TED talk, Ron Gutman, CEO of HealthTap, shows proof through example that people who smile live longer than those who do not.
A couple of years ago I was interviewed for a Podcast on my three-year journey around the world alone on a motorcycle. In this interview, as in many others, I am asked what kind of weapons I carried, or what tools were important. Check out my response in this short clip from the interview below — I think you’ll get it even more. If you want more, you can watch the full interview here.
For the ladies, smiling attracts more attention than sparkly eyeshadow or manicured nails.
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