But We Should Do It Anyway
This year, I've started taking a long walk/jog every morning before work, and recently I decided to observe how often someone meets my eyes, smiles, and says good morning. Over the past week, I'd say about one or two of every 50 strangers will smile and greet me.
I think part of this comes from living close to the city. When I visit friends or family who live out in the farmlands of Japan, that number increases quite dramatically.
But what I realized from my morning observations is just how hard it is to smile.
In the cruel world we live in, it is much harder than we realize to smile. It is much easier to let your feelings fester inside, to dwell on the negative, and to let your face show the world just how unhappy you are. All it takes is for you or someone close to you to have a really bad day, and everything goes downhill from there. A simple smile can be the first step towards changing all of that.
Have you ever noticed that it's often easier to focus on the negative things in life? A lot of this probably comes from our animalistic survival instincts, but the majority of us have a tendency to fixate on the things that make us unhappy, and as a result, it can be hard to find reasons to smile. But it is in those tough times to remember one of my favorite Jedi lessons from Star Wars:
If we practice controlling where our focus is aimed at, more often than not, we can smile whenever we choose to.
One real-life experience that showed me how powerful a shift in focus can be, came from moving to Japan. Japan is an interesting place to live in as an American. Many Americans have mentioned how surprisingly cold, unfriendly, robotic, or xenophobic the Japanese public can feel to them. The first year I lived here, I understood what they were talking about.
However, as soon as I decided to be more outgoing and interact with anyone here, 80% of the time they will immediately change their stoic expression into a kind, polite smile. It was as simple as a small shift in focus away from the obstacles, tasks, or thoughts in their daily life that could bring out that smile.
Of course, there is always that 20% of humanity that will have no time, availability, or energy, to break focus from what they are doing. But overall, I am always pleasantly surprised with how often people will smile and be kind when they are put in a position to communicate with an absolute stranger.
The Benefits of Smiling - Physically and Mentally
Smiling is something that we often do without thinking, but it can actually have a profound impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Smiling is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your mood. When you smile, your brain releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can help to reduce stress levels. It's amazing that just the act of curling your lips up into a grin can boost your mood and improve your overall health.
Smiling has also been known to have other numerous benefits, such as:
-Lowering blood pressure
-Boosting your immune system
-Triggering the release of serotonin
-Improving your mood to feel happier and more positive
-Reducing stress levels
In a world that is often so stressful and chaotic, taking a moment to smile can be a simple but powerful way to boost our mood and wellbeing. So next time you wake up feeling a little down, or you're stuck in traffic and start to feel your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath and SMILE. It might just be the best available medicine we could ever self-prescribe to ourselves at any given moment.
Being Kind Is Even Harder
If smiling is hard, being kind is even harder.
Many times, we ignore the harder side of kindness. We feel kindness is only being there for others, even when we don't want to be, and doing things that show we are willing to put their needs above our own. While all of that is a big slice of the kindness pie, it is ignoring the harder side of kindness that is equally important: truth and honesty.
Kindness occasionally requires us to be vulnerably honest with ourselves and with others. It isn't kind to say everything is going to be all right, when someone is taking actions that put themselves or others in danger. It isn't kind when we lie to protect the feelings of the moment, and set up expectations that are almost certain to hurt even more later on. So, while it is never easy being honest and truthful to others, it often can be the kindest thing you can do for someone else in the long-run.
There are many times every day when it seems like kindness is just too hard to muster. But whenever I feel that way, another one of my favorite quotes can sometimes help me snap out of it:
Conclusion: Smiling Is Hard
Smiling is hard. It's one of the first things to go when we feel down. And it can be extremely tough to conjure up a smile whenever annoying or bad things just keep piling up. But smiling has some amazing benefits - both mentally and physically - that are worth taking the time to experience.
And kindness, like smiling, is one of the most important things we can do for both ourselves and others. It doesn't just make the world a little bit nicer, it also has the potential to make a real difference in someone's day, or life.
To be clear, I'm not saying I'd recommend to just start smiling at everyone you meet in life. Each neighborhood, culture, and person you meet in your daily life will be a unique encounter for everyone involved.
But what I am saying is smile every day at least once for yourself. Start your morning with it. Maybe just greet your mirror with it. Do it for you and your own hormonal status. If you feel anything good from it over time, then why not release those positive neurotransmitters for yourself every morning, noon, and night?
Through establishing this simple habit each day, you will eventually find your own safe and suitable smiling practice that leads to more smiles all around. And that's a good thing. :) :D ;) :P :)
I hope these thoughts are helpful. Thank you so much for reading. I Agape-Love you all.
Until next time, God bless.
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© 2022 BK Johnsen