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How to Smile More Every Day (Even if Life Isn’t Perfect)

Smiling Girl

ย “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.

Gratitude.

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 headโ€”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.ย And it makes me smile.

What made you smile today?

Smiling girl image via Shutterstock

About Cody Fox

Cody Fox applies ancient wisdom to modern best practices for working effortlessly. He shares heads-up solutions to living a free life at Unrogue.com.

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  • Dee

    This article was exactly what I needed–a reminder to stop, breathe, and remember all the things in my life that I’m grateful for. Even though I keep a gratitude journal, I sometimes forget to appreciate all of the little things, and even the great big important things that can become easy to take for granted. Thank you so much for writing this!

  • Beautiful article! Made me smile <3 Whenever I forget to smile, my dog always makes me smile. ๐Ÿ™‚ It's always those little things in life. So precious! <3

  • Hey Dee,

    One thing that really helps me is reading back over my journal whenever I’m feeling down. Then I see that every day has really been a blessing.

  • Thanks Hazel. You’ve got a great dog ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cameron

    Well said. I often feel this overwhelming feeling of gratitude, warmth, etc, in the mornings. It’s easy for me to block out part of my morning to read, meditate, enjoy a cup of coffee, and so on, and during those 2 hours every morning, I feel perfect about every shade, shadow, texture, and everything coming up. But I find that becomes a lot more difficult once day-to-day life shows up and takes me off guard. I’m going to try the gratitude journal, because I’m determined to carry that feeling with me throughout the day, and your post gave me a little more motivation to believe that’s possible.

  • Elizabeth Thums

    This article touched my heart in a BIG way! Thank you so much, Cody, for sharing your story. I’ve been struggling with feeling guilt about being in my 30’s and not having a career, deciding to take on the role of housewife. And it’s not so much guilt over that as the guilt of having more time than many people I know to slow down, enjoy life, spend quality time with my husband and the people I love. I’ve contemplated whether I SHOULD feel good about carving out blocks of the day to enjoy my hobbies, have a lovely morning ritual, take a nap while everyone around me is stressed to the max and has no time to do anything they might like to. I feel guilt over feeling so lucky and grateful I’m able to live this easy-going life! Why should everyone around me suffer while I feel like I’m on vacation every day, able to enjoy the small things? But I’m slowly realizing (especially after reading this blog) everyone creates their own life, they are feeling stress when, if they chose not to, they wouldn’t have to. WE are the architects of our life and destinies and don’t have to be concerned with how others choose to build their lives. Even if we feel the brunt of their frustrations over the life they’ve chosen to build.

  • Laura

    “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 thatโ€™s within us. And they show us that life is incredibly precious.”

    This is an amazing quote and an extraordinary way to look at life around us!

  • Dee

    Definitely! ๐Ÿ™‚ I like to write encouraging comments after the things I’m thankful for, too, so every time I go back to read it I get a miniature pep talk from myself.

  • I enjoyed this post so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Cody! I appreciate all the small things in life, and I’ve learnt myself to be more aware of it. Today I smiled (and laughed) almost all the time at school. I am extremely lucky to have such amazing and caring friends ๐Ÿ™‚ They make me smile all day. And I love how weird we act together, and whenever we do strange stuff together, we don’t care about what others might think of us, because we are having a great time! This article explained perfectly how beautiful all the little things in life are, and that we should appreciate every single bit of it. I sat down outside at my terrace an hour ago and just looked around, and then I heard birds chirping (oh, how lovely they sound), the wind blowing in my hair, and the smell of fresh new mowed grass reaching my nose. And when I opened my eyes, I recognised the sun hitting my face (so warm), ants on the stones in front of me, all together working, and the beautiful sea just a few metres from my house, the gorgeous new-planted flowers beside me (pink and all) and the sky, so blue and clear. I loved it, and I really loved every single moment of it. It felt like I was in my own little bubble. It was precious. Life is precious, and we have to enjoy every single moment of it ๐Ÿ™‚ You inspired me with this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you, again!

  • Peace Within

    The struggle you brought up was your rock bottom. I can relate in my own way. I lost my smile and happiness for a while and went through many hard times. When I got my happiness back though, I said I would never let it go. When you have nothing, you end up being grateful for everything. Glad you are in a better place and helping other people realize things that we easily take for granted. Take care!

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Love this, Cody! And smiling releases feel-good hormones, which cause us to smile all the more!

  • Sneha Reetun

    wow..this is such a beautiful way to take life ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks Laura!

    I’ve always found myself learning most from difficult times, and being grateful for what they teach.

  • Sneha, glad I could help. If you have any additional feedback I’d love to hear it.

  • Right on Susan! As it’s said, “sometimes your smile can be the source of your happiness!”

  • Thanks so much for commenting. I find whenever we have nothing, we find that exactly what we DO have is more than enough.

  • I love the picture you painted here Heidi. When you truly pay attention every experience we have is totally marvelous and amazing. Thanks for writing!

  • True Elizabeth, everybody is making the choice that makes sense to them. But I’m interested in why you feel guilty over doing what feels right to you. Is it just the pressure from “overworkers” that tells you to move move move?

  • Sounds good, Cameron.
    Those morning hours really can start the day with a good context, but I understand it’s hard to continue the good feelings. The best solution I’ve found is to focus on your experience moment to moment. What are you feeling? What are you seeing? How are you breathing?

    Best wishes.

  • Elizabeth Thums

    I think that’s what most of it stems from, just growing up in this society where that is the norm. My husband and I live a pretty unconventional life and have been scoffed at many a time. I’m also an empath so, for me, it can be a challenge when I’m surrounded by people who are stressed, hurting, and angry all the time ๐Ÿ™ I actually FEEL what they are feeling. I suppose, in a society where stress seems to be the norm, feeling happy and satisfied feels like a luxury. Kind of like those who are rich compared to those who have nothing, if that makes any sense. You want to solve the problems of those who are hurting when that’s not always a feasible possibility ๐Ÿ™ So guilt rushes in to take the place of feeling powerless.

  • Kelly

    This is great. Thank you. But what advice would you have for the person who’s life is not thrown into peril to the point of starvation. Just to the point where you just get by. It’s not terrible, but it’s never good. And what do you say to the person who has one bad after another?

  • momzilla76

    Look up the practice of mindfulness(something similar to this article speaks of). I began it during as long series of low level crisis events in my life. It helps you re-wire your perception of one bad day after another. Yes the ick is still there but it has much less ability to get under your skin and bother you. You can step out of the sensation of bad and look at your surroundings at things as they are. Like the intensity of the red coffee mug, how blue the sky is and so on. It is deceptively simple. How could something so mild help my bad day. By letting you relax into the beauty of something no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. It lets your subconscious know that not everything needs a flight-or-fight adrenalin response.

  • Tir

    Nice article. I needed to read this, and be grateful for my beautiful life.

  • Tir

    Beautifully written….being mindful, living in the moment is a gift.

  • Tir

    In a time when people fight gender wars and capitalism still prevails, guilt for being traditional and taking care of children and home may not be valued by some, or are looked on with jealousy, however, I find that lives lived authentically are good lives. We don’t need to be and do what others want as long as we are pleased in marriages with the choices made. I know many women who would love to stay home with their children or be a homemaker but have let social pressures dictate their lives. You must come to terms with your and your partners decision and revel in being able to make home and your partner a priority. Also, naps are nice. We all need many more of those. I love what you wrote.

  • Lucas Simon

    You must be one depressed motherfucker who is in serious denial of his own misery if you’re claiming that passing trucks and decaying fruit are enough to make you happy.

  • this is real

    (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Dr Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. Iโ€™d write all sorts of notes and questions and things Iโ€™d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I LOVE smiling, because everyday, I’m thankful for the blessings that occurred in my life, whether it’s big or small. Although I’ve had a few set backs, it doesn’t mean that life isn’t over.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Cody.

  • Alina Shmilove

    Thank you Cody ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a great loving way to expirence life