How to Live Well- The Smile Experiment
One great perk I’ve noticed about being pregnant is that everyone is nice to you. I mean everyone. Friends, family, strangers. Walking down the street I have gotten more smiles and pleasant glances than I have in my entire lifetime. More offers of assistance, more polite conversations… and, I must say, it is very pleasant to be on the receiving end of all of this.
So I decided to conduct an experiment. For one whole week I was going to be really nice to everyone I encountered. I’m generally nice anyway but I mean really nice- you know smiling at strangers (provided I’m on the right side of town), giving out compliments (heartfelt ones only, of course), and just generally emitting happiness.
I decided to start small with smiling at the people I pass by on the street. I walk a lot in Santa Monica. I walk Gatsby in my neighborhood, to the beach and amongst the shops on Montana Avenue. I decided to give everyone I passed on these walks a very bright smile and possibly even the occasional “hello” or “good morning”.
At first I was shy with it. People are generally reserved in Santa Monica. The majority of people keep to themselves and the most you’ll get is a tight lipped smile and a furtive once-over behind large designer sunglasses. So my smiles and ‘good mornings’ were tentative at first. But I started to see that even these feeble attempts at niceness really affected the other party. At first the strangers looked at me in a slightly suspicious manner. Some people even looked behind them to make sure I wasn’t smiling at some one else. But as my greetings became more confident, smiles were returned and for one unguarded moment, I began to share the refreshing feeling of goodwill amongst strangers.
Now I am a pro at smiling. I even smiled at Meg Ryan when I spotted her lunching at R+D Kitchen on Montana Avenue (she probably thought I was just a crazy fan, but that is beside the point). And I must say, it feels good. We are so used to rushing about our day, stuck in our heads, thinking about the future, that we forget the beauty of the present moment. And something as small as sharing a smile with a passerby can correct all of that, jolt you back into the moment and really feel quite exhilarating…
When was the last time you smiled at a stranger?
Pictured above are a casual bouquet of tulips on my dining room table... enough to make any tulip lover smile.