6 Reasons I Love to Smile at Strangers – Kindness Is A Mutual Gift

6 Reasons I Love to Smile at Strangers - Kindness Is A Mutual Gift

Smiling at strangers is my chance to make my day more positive and acknowledge important moments in time.

It’s all too easy to get lost in your thoughts. I do it all the time, especially when I’m alone getting groceries or shopping for new clothes. They can become louder than what’s around you, which means you lose important moments in time that could be spent making your day more positive.

I recently discovered that smiling at strangers can create positivity for yourself and those around you. To be clear, I’m not in any way condoning the condescending “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled more!” comments that many men feel is somehow necessary to make toward women. However, I’ve been told by many people including those close to me that I can come off as cold, and that’s truly the opposite of how I want to be perceived. So I went on a quest recently to smile more and learn more about how smiling can affect me and everyone else

1. What is a smile? It’s encouragement.

A smile is an unspoken way of encouraging each other. We could all do with being encouraged at some point, so here are some of the benefits I’ve found of smiling at strangers. It’s not too exhausting to share a smile or two during your day, and you can gain positive energy from it too if the person you smile at feels your encouragement and connects back with you…

2. Smiling can help to improve your mood

Recently, I had a bad day. The kind of day where you order lunch and everything’s wrong, you miss deadlines at work and you realize you forgot your umbrella after it starts raining when you clock out. Just glorious.

After I left the office and jumped on my bus home, I was soaked, hungry and all-around miserable. To make things worse, the bus was crowded and smelled like wet socks. I wasn’t in the mood to be nice, but there was a kid in yellow rain boots and a LEGO rain jacket dripping in the seat across from me. He was clearly miserable too.

When he looked up at me, I gave him a tiny smile. He immediately brightened up and gave me one back, which warmed my heart. I ended up researching the science behind it, and it turns out that smiling at other people improves your mood instantly by releasing dopamine and serotonin, which make you happy. Plus, you get the gift of hearing a tiny giggle from across the bus.

3. You Share Magic

The magic of smiling changes both you and the person who sees you smile on a biological level. Studies have shown the orbitofrontal cortex lights up when someone smiles, which is a significant finding. That part of the brain processes sensory rewards, so when someone sees you grin, they feel like they’re getting an encouraging pat on the back.

When you’re the one smiling, your brain thinks something great has happened and automatically gives you that same rewarding feeling. I know sometimes it’s hard to find happiness in the toughest periods of life, but smiling is a relatively easy way to persuade the brain into producing the serotonin and dopamine you need to feel happy. So smiling can be a way to help yourself and someone else at the same time!

4. Your Heart Might Get a Boost

After the orbitofrontal cortex produces a boost of happiness, your stress level will naturally decrease. I feel it instantly when I crack a joke at work that makes me smile and the person next to me smiles, too. When your stress decreases, you’re less likely to develop early symptoms of hypertension. Heart health issues are common in my family, so I’ll take any help I can get to keep my heart functioning properly.

5. Smiling Can Help You Experience a Welcome Shift in Perspectives

I’m not trying to convince anyone that smiling will change what you’re going through or make your problems go away. Still, smiling when you don’t initially want to, just as a free gift to a passer-by or stranger, may change your perspective on how you feel at that moment. Sometimes, tiny moments like this can be all we need to give our day a lift.

After I got off the bus that day, my spirit felt lighter just from that tiny interaction with the little boy in the LEGO coat. It gave me a better outlook on what I had to look forward to that evening, like a delicious dinner and a new episode of my favorite TV show. I would have taken those things for granted before, but smiling helped me let go of my stress and value the goodness in my life just a little more.

6. Smiling Can Reduce Your Stress Level… Which Can Only Be Good For Health.

Smiling regularly strengthens your body on a cellular level, whether you smile at a stranger or someone you know. It reduces your stress level, which is commonly related to increased risks of cancers in people who are constantly under pressure. The more you smile, the less stressed you are, and the more health benefits you could potentially gain. Health is precious. A privilege. Something to respect and cherish if one has it. I am quietly hopeful that a little smile reduces my stress a little, and that alone is a little thumbs-up for overall health. A smile gives a moment of thanks and release to my body and mind, and hopefully boosts them too.

Can you smile every day? Would you like to?

The power of smiling feels like a very real thing to me, and not just a cheesy aphorism or topic for a pithy motivational quote. With something as simple as a smile, I feel I can change my life and that of those around me in a brief yet important way.  I try to remember to smile every day, since it’s an easy way to spread joy, even during my worst days.