When You’re Smiling, the Whole World Smiles with You…Maybe!

 We’d like to start a Smile Project. Remember the song: “When You’re Smiling, The Whole World Smiles With You.” 

A smile can be like a warm blanket or a familiar song. It’s amazing the effect it can have on you, personally, and on those with whom we interact. 

How and when to smile might take some practice, but it’s so worth it. Physically, a smile lifts the face and can, temporarily, smooth away wrinkles in your aging face. Equally important, a smile makes you approachable. It exudes friendliness and charm. It makes the other person see your warmth and feel accepted. And even better, it releases endorphins (natural pain relievers) and serotonin (feel good chemicals) in the brain. Hey, smiling has health benefits. Try it! 

We pass people on the street. Some of us don’t care to make eye contact or acknowledge others’ presence. However, it’s so easy to make a stranger feel good when you smile as they pass by. Perhaps, you’re caught up in the beat-the-clock-scenario--rushing to catch a plane, train, get to work or a class, it may not be feasible. Who can possibly think of anyone else then?  

So, we advocate smiling. First off, make it part of your daily routine when you are out and about. It’s an easy habit to form. For example, you’re on a bus and someone is standing right there in front of you while both of you are holding onto straps. Why not smile? The goal isn’t to make a new best friend but add some joy into someone’s life, even for a minute or two.

Better is that it just might be contagious, make you feel good—get that warm fuzzy feeling--and inspire some happiness within them. Margaret knows the feeling for she routinely smiles at people with whom she makes eye contact on the street, in a bus, at an event or even in the subway. Many times, they don’t smile back. You know, don’t smile or talk to strangers they were told long ago. They’ve continued their sphinxlike post. However, at other times, this can lead to a brief conversation. 

On a recent outing with a gal pal, Barbara was surprised how some people looked directly at her when both were walking, and said, “Good morning” and even “Hello” while others kept their focus deliberately away and looked straight ahead or down at the ground like statues to avoid making eye contact with her at all. She knew they saw her, how could they not? But zero acknowledgement. Barbara didn’t feel bad for herself but for the person that they couldn’t make that simple gesture. She understood that some might also have been deep in their thoughts, but some seemed to be avoiding all contact. 

Who knows why? Maybe, they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, had a disagreement with a child, partner or spouse. Maybe, they didn’t like the headlines in the news or how they mis-scrambled their eggs that morning. Or maybe their coffee was bitter, or their oatmeal ran over the pot and created a mess on their recently cleaned range. We’re great at writing scenarios in our head. Whatever the scenario, it was sad to see that some folks were so glum. 

Enter the smile patrol—Us! We decided we’ll take on the mantle of trying to make the world a bit cheerier by initiating our Smile Project. The goal is to smile at five people per day—you get extra points if you go up to 10 or add some verbal expression: “How are you?” or “Have a great day” or “I love that hat and mittens” or “What a cute dog you’re walking.” The point is to interact with people.

After three years of Covid-19 isolation, we need to connect more, not just with our loved ones but total strangers. Scientific evidence has found that isolation causes both mental and physical illness so why not take control of eliminating or paring those possibilities. 

Try the Smile Project. Here’s how to get started. Practice in front of a mirror. A big grin so your eyes twinkle too. Yes, it might feel forced but doing it often you’ll find that smiling will come naturally. Then, take it outside or on the road, and smile, smile, smile. 

If you’re timid, smile at one stranger a day rather than five times at the start. Maybe, the clerk at the post office or a supermarket checkout person or the produce specialist putting out those oranges and avocados you love. You may find it gets your day off to a better beginning, revs up your day in the middle when you may try another smile at 11 a.m. just when your energy starts to wane or in the afternoon to end the day on a bright cheery note. In the evening while you wait to be seated in a restaurant line, we bet it makes your meal more delicious and enjoyable. 

Whenever and wherever doesn’t matter but doing it is apt to make a difference for you and somebody else more than many pills ever might. Join our efforts.

For something else that might put a smile on your face, click on the latest podcast at lifelessonsat50plus.com (homepage and scroll down) we did with podcaster Jane Leder on "Older Women and Friends" or go to olderwomenandfriends.net. 


  • Lynn Lyss

    I love this! I do it all the time -makes me feel good!

  • Marilyn Ostrow

    Reading this blog brought back warm memories of my father. He told me and my sister to “let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy, rainy day”
    Thanks for reminding me of my smiling dad.

  • Kathryn Amy Rothberg

    Good blogpost today! Covid really isolated us. And I live in a Nor-Cal suburb that isn’t super friendly anyway.
    I feel like young people especially need to be seen and acknowledged. Life has been extra challenging for them. So I compliment them on something and am warm and friendly. Like my various young Amazon drivers. It’s always surprisingly well-received.

  • Audrey Steuer

    This has even been scientifically proven! My late grandmother used to constantly torture me by telling me to “smile and the whole world will smile back at you”! I even remember dreading her annual visit to stay with us over Yom Kippur when I would have to listen to the same admonition time and time again. However, I have come to realize and appreciate how right she was! My only regret is that she didn’t live long enough to see me appreciate her wisdom and to learn that it has been scientifically proven. She would have been so happy and proud. Thank you for brightening and deepening my day!

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