“A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose.” ~Tom Wilson
I smile a lot.
In fact, yesterday I smiled eighty-seven times (I counted).
These aren’t fake smiles. They’re big, toothy, open-mouthed grins. And they’ve become a regular feature of my everyday life because I’ve been overcome with an immense happiness.
Everything I see, touch, breathe, and taste brings me delight.
It’s totally spontaneous and outrageously fun, and I want to share with you how it’s done.
What I Smile At
It could be the subtle texture of construction grating.
It could be the way a flower pops out of the background at an unforeseen moment.
It could be the way the sunlight glints off the window in the early morning.
But the thing that’s powering all these smiles is very simple.
Most people smile when they get something.
We all like to smile when we receive a compliment, a surprise visit from a friend, or a big paycheck.
In other words, we’re happy when we receive a direct benefit.
But the way I see it, I’m the direct benefiter of everything happening around me.
The caw of a crow, the taste of a mandarin orange, the sound of a truck passing.
All of these things have made me smile today. I receive all of these things and am glad because of them.
So how can you smile more?
It’s simple really.
Be grateful for everything in your life.
It’s amazing what positive effects we experience once we begin to say, “Thank you!” for everything.
Thanks for the gift of life. Thanks for a delicious meal. Thanks for the smile of a stranger.
But the weird (and powerful) change I invite you to make is this:
Give thanks for even the seemingly negative things that come into your life.
Illness, pain, and loss are some of the most powerful teachers we have available. They reflect back to us the ways in which we need to grow. They show us the power that’s within us.
And they show us that life is incredibly precious.
For a few years I was in a really dark place. No home, no friends, no money. I slept outdoors in unfamiliar towns. I ate food stolen from dumpsters. I went days without talking to a single soul.
There were frigid nights when I would sleep in a construction site. I would curl up in the cab of an unlocked bulldozer because my body heat could warm the tiny compartment just enough to sleep a few hours before the crew came in at 6AM.
I was low.
But I appreciate this experience because it gave me fortitude to live anywhere. I no longer worry that I’ll be able to survive without food or shelter, because in tough situations, you get creative. You get resourceful. And you stop being afraid to ask for help.
Pay attention to the smallest details.
Right now I’m staring into the red of my ceramic coffee cup and just smiling my ears off. It’s too perfect not to.
But the coffee cup isn’t really just red.
As I look closer, I see infinite shades glancing off the glaze.
It’s reflecting the candy-cane stripes on a packet of sugar lying in the dish.
It’s reflecting a page of notes I’ve got in front of me.
And it’s following all the laws of light and shading, showing its brightest fire-truck vermillion face to the sun on one side, and a shadowy, murky maroon on the other.
Truly a glorious thing.
These details of experience are accessible to us everywhere, and they show us that no two things are alike.
Even things that we find offensive are opportunities for thankfulness once we begin to appreciate their details.
Plastic bottles on the street or decaying fruit, for example.
They all contain such marvellous detail that when you stop and pay attention, you can’t help but smile in thanks.
Write down your blessings.
Thousands of great things happen to us every day but we only seem to remember a few, while we remember most of the dull, unfortunate, or painful things that happen to us.
That’s not our fault; it’s just the way our brains are wired.
But we can overcome it.
That’s why it can be helpful to keep a notebook to jot down all the great things that happen to you daily.
Reflect on it when you’re feeling down. You’ll notice that even on your lowest days, things happened that touched you, that blessed you.
Don’t forget them!
Look at what is, not what isn’t.
Every time I look around, I think, “Wow, I’ve got a great life.”
I don’t have a lot. And yet, I live the happiest life imaginable because I’m looking at what is, not what isn’t.
Oftentimes we get caught up in worries about the future, giving substance to our negative thoughts.
We think, “If only I had a bit more money to pay the bills.”
“If only I didn’t have to worry about these aches and pains.”
“If only I had a little more time to spend with my family.”
Life isn’t the fantasies you have in your head—it’s what’s happening right now! All the great things around you are yours.
The sunshine hitting your face.
The smile of your kids and grandkids.
The exhilaration of going for a run and feeling your blood rush about in your marvellous arms and legs.
That’s all for you. And it makes me smile.
What made you smile today?
Smiling girl image via Shutterstock