# How to Live Well # Santa Monica

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.


Unknown said...

Being nice and smiling is such a powerful action. I learned that being nice gets you so much further. Great post.

Rebecca said...

Smiling is a wonderful thing. I love it when people smile back at me. Very thoughtful post.

Alan Burnett said...

I do tend to smile at most people myself, but in my case it is a kind of vacuous smile of incomprehension. It results from the deafness : I am never quite sure what people say and therefore a questioning half-smile I find is the best facial reaction to any opening conversational gambit.

Rose said...

Ah how lovely- I do it fairly often but people sometimes people look alarmed! i have a tendency to do it to famous people but it's because initially my face is thinking I recognise them from a party or something and then I realise it's TV/ film/ theatre and they are not in fact an acquainance!

I think everyone feels protective, good feelings towards pregnant people in their subconscious

Have I asked you this already? How has your sense of smell been affected by being pregnant?

Claire Brewster said...

Living in London (UK) we don't really do smiling at strangers (everyone thinks everyone else is crazy so best just look at your shoes rather than engage). I do agree though that you get back what you put out there. Must try to smile more am too often in my head to notice the world around me. Love your blog it so inspirational.

M.Lane said...

Really a great point, and a worthy effort. Where I went to school we have a "speaking tradition" where students greet each other when they pass by whether they know each other or not. Once you get used to it, it makes the day [and the world] much better. Good job!


the gardener's cottage said...

What a great experiment. My husband and I grew up in Redondo Beach and when we moved inland to Redlands we were not used to everyone smiling. Now I smile automatically at everyone I encounter. When we go back to the beach we see that people are more guarded there. I wonder why? But I'm a BIG smiler here and love it. You are right, it's infectious.


ps ~ How did Meg look? I used to think she was so pretty but after all the surgery her pictures kinda make me sad.

Lucy said...

I tried this experiment on the London underground trains,the ultimate home of the anonymous stare into the middle distance, and found that people did smile back. But when I happily reported that to a friend who has lived longer in the city, she told me they only smiled because they feared I was a lunatic and didn't want me to turn violent. I concede that may have been true in at least some of the cases, because there are some crazies down there, and smiling on those trains is very very taboo.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Thank you everyone, for your comments... as Claire and Lucy touched upon- it does matter where you live when you do this experiment. Most places in California are safe- but as I am also very familiar with London and Paris- I would not recommend smiling at strangers. Firstly there are just so many of them (walking the streets, in the metro or tube)- you would be walking around with a permanent smile :) Which isn't so bad. But some might take it the wrong way. No, this activity should be altered for those locations. In Santa Monica it is going quite well. The only pedestrians you run into here are generally shopping or walking their dogs- so it works.

Rose to answer your questions pregnancy has definitely affected my sense of smell with regards to perfume. I cannot wear anything else right now except Stella Sheer (last year's edition). It is the only one I own that is not too strong for me right now. Such a shame too because I purchased YSL Parisienne right before I found out I was pregnant. I've only used it twice since!

Janet- Meg looked happy. The plastic surgery is a shame because she was such a beautiful lady (still is but in a different way). I prefer people that age gracefully but then again I am not in the position to judge- I am not there yet!

Alan- the smile in your profile picture is marvelous! I suppose I will have to deal with deafness one day and I will use smiling as a defense mechanism :)

Tracy said...

Austin, TX is very conducive for smiling. I was hanging laundry and neighbors and passers-by were looking at my clothes line (for whatever reason) so I just say hi to them because you are blatantly staring at me when we're just 7 ft away

sassymonkey said...

Oh I love this idea.