Some days, it’s easy to smile. You wake up to the sounds of birds chirping, with the warm glow of the morning sun cradling your face. You take several deep, cleansing breaths standing beneath a perfectly cascading shower, just before drawing a smiley face on the steamed-up glass with your index finger.
Your roommate or significant other makes your coffee, just the way you like it. You hit every traffic light. You sing to your favorite tunes. And you arrive at work refreshed, excited, and anxious to create and collaborate.
But not every day starts this way. Sometimes you wake up to chaos, in your head or in the world around you. You hit snags, and bumps, and roadblocks at every turn. You try too hard, or don’t try enough, and things fall apart, or things fall short.
You struggle, you fight yourself and other people, and you find yourself wishing you could stop the world so you could get off for a while.
But there is an alternative. When things go wrong, you can fall down or look up. You can shut down or wake up, all over again, starting from right where you stand. You can accept that the days won’t always look bright, but commit to finding something worth smiling about. Not sure what that might be? No worries, friends! I have a few ideas….
1. Call a friend who knows how to laugh at herself to remember what it’s like not to take yourself too seriously.
2. Ask a friend to come over and make you smile. It’s really simple and obvious, I know, but sometimes we forget to just ask for what we need.
3. Read a letter, card, or email from someone who thought of you when you were going through a hard time.
4. Search your deleted email folder for “thank you.” You probably made a huge difference in someone’s life recently—remember that now!
5. Text a friend, “What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard today?”
6. Text your significant other with a silly picture of you and ask for one in return.
7. Ask your significant other to make you breakfast in bed—and to be creative with it. (I have no idea what that could mean, but just seeing the thought s/he puts into it will likely make it extra fun).
8. Post on your Facebook page, “What made you smile today?” (Like I often do on the Tiny Buddha Facebook page!)
9. Tell a child in your life that you need a hug. Just try to stay stoic when she throws her little arms around your neck and sings “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow.”
10. Alternatively, ask that child to draw a picture of you and him or her together.
11. Take a break to enjoy a simple pleasure that you often multitask—like a cup of flavored coffee, or a favorite snack.
12. Rearrange your furniture. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel a sense of accomplishment when I do this, and I also really enjoy the novelty of creating a space with a different feel.
13. Give your cat a ball of yarn or give your dog a wrapped gift and watch him try to open it. Pets playing = instant smile, at least, for me!
14. Go out and invest in a hula hoop. It’s nearly impossible to stay glum when you get moving like you haven’t since you were a kid. (Alternative option: jump around on a trampoline and just try to not smile!)
15. For the ladies: paint your toe nails a bright color that you wouldn’t usually pick.
16. Ask a child in your life to do your hair. Seeing yourself with massive 80s bangs (ladies) or a Mohawk-inspired look (men) is sure to get you laughing!
17. Blast your favorite music and dance around with absolutely no regard for rhythm or appearance.
18. Bake something that has a silly face on it. Really—this is a valid suggestion!
19. Eat food that requires you to use your hands, and get messy—and then really get messy. Get rib sauce all over your face and just go with it.
20. Make some type of arts and crafts project, just like you would have as a kid, with plans to give it to someone else. (Two-part smile: when you see the ridiculous thing you made, and when you see your friend’s face after receiving it).
21. Make a snack you loved as a kid. Maybe it’s peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or a sundae with gummy bears on it.
22. Watch a movie or cartoon from your childhood. (Smurfs always do it for me, especially when I remember how my mother called them devil worshipers because Papa Smurf did magic.)
23. Write a hand-written letter to someone you love, using different colored pens.
24. Look at pictures from your childhood. I can’t help but smile when I see the ridiculously thick bangs my mother gave me (translate: the front of a mullet).
25. Pop in the video/DVD from your child’s last recital—or your childhood recital.
26. Call your oldest friend, start a conversation with, “’Member when we…,” and end it with, “That was awesome, huh?”
27. Do an updated version of that awesome thing, right now. Really—grab your markers, or your bike, or your flashlight, or you video camera, and have a childlike adventure.
28. Make a magazine collage of things that always make you smile. Consider it a mini vision board for moments you’d like to create soon.
29. Dress up in clothes you love, just to run a simple errand. When you like how you look, you generally feel good.
30. Wear bright colored socks. If your pants are long, wear a different color on each foot. It’s like a little private joke that only you and your feet know about.
31. Make a beeline to your favorite spot, whether it’s a beach, bike trail, or mall. (No judgment—it’s your favorite spot.)
32. Make time to see the sunrise or sunset, and make it an occasion. Invite a friend and bring wine and a picnic basket. Make a memory, and make it beautiful.
33. Walk by your neighborhood park and soak in the innocence, excitement, and wonder.
34. Grab your camera and go outside with a mission to capture things that make you happy.
35. Make a list of all the amazing things you’ve accomplished and experienced this year, and then bask in the beauty of it all.
36. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Say all the things that might make you feel kind of vulnerable, and then think about how special you just made them feel.
37. Help a neighbor with something, whether it’s pulling weeds from a woman’s garden or running an errand for an elderly man who no longer drives. Two part happiness—forgetting about your own problems, and showing someone that neighborly kindness is not a thing of the past.
38. Ask a friend to tell you what’s new with his or her passion project. Same idea: forget about yourself for a while and watch someone else light up.
39. Commit a random act of kindness and tell that person to pass it on.
40. People-watch with a dialogue-writing slant. As in, find two people sitting across the street and make up a ridiculous conversation in your head that they could be having. I know, it sounds silly, and it is. But it always makes me laugh! (I got this from the movie Date Night, in case it sounds familiar.)
41. Visit a positive news site. (There are tons of them.)
42. Elf yourself or a friend. (I know this one’s seasonal, but it’s funny year-found!)
43. Spend some time exploring 1000 Awesome Things.
44. Make your own list of awesome things.
45. Use the search functionality on Twitter and look for “happy” or “smile.”
46. Create a gratitude list for the day, including the smallest details (a fluffy pillow) and the biggest things (your health and your family).
47. Take a run around your block. Trigger some endorphins, whittle your waist line, and remember that the world is so much bigger and greater than it seems when sadness closes you down.
48. Laugh out loud. Seriously, just choose to laugh and keep going. (They actually offer laughter yoga and laughter meditation, if you’re interested in checking them out.)
49. Hum your favorite song. Humming has all kinds of benefits—it’s soothing, it centers you, and also calms your nervous system.
50. Make a new friend, in person or by commenting on a blog. Like this one. =)
51. And lastly…watch an uplifting video, like Tiny Buddha’s first YouTube video. I asked readers to submit footage of the things that make them smile, and the end result definitely put a smile on my face:
Readers who contributed:
Jennifer Butler-Williams, Victoria Strong, Linda Churchill, Grace, Chris Alexander, Gayle Wright, Nicolette Blubaugh, Richard Barlow, Sarah Maccarelli (Hooping by Sarah), Anna B, Alison Kosakowski (Diary of a Dairy Queen), Elizabeth Lyons, Dan Manning, Nikki Faith (Myth Girl), Michelle Poletti, Gloria Fester, Liliya Pellus, Julia (OmPeaceMom), Regina Goh, Sean (BabylonSeeker), Kalpana Tewani, Ekaterina Perminov, Paul F. Caswell, Dpl. MT, LMT (Performance Muscular Therapy), Rami Liesaho, Joy Gisela Claro, Lindsay Savage, Justin Carmichael (That Other Justin)
Thank you to everyone who contributed! I aimed to include all video footage (my apologies to anyone who sent in photo montages!) If I missed your name, or you’d like me to include a link, please send it to email(AT)tinybuddha(DOT)com.