As I walked into the gym last night Carlos was on his way out. He smiled his usual warm smile and asked me how I was. While we exchanged pleasantries I noticed the receptionist looking a bit puzzled.
‘Are you guys friends?’ he asked. ‘Or do you work together?’
‘No,’ I replied. ‘Our gym routines often overlap. We’re smile buddies.’
I’ve never heard the term ‘smile buddies’ before but it seems appropriate. Although I know nothing about Carlos besides his name and his gym routine, I regard him as my gym friend. I look forward to smiling at him and saying ‘hello’. It brightens up my gym visit, puts a smile on my face and makes me feel connected.
Over the summer I had another smile buddy in the park. Each morning, while walking my three miles before breakfast, I’d pass the same woman going in the opposite direction. We smiled and said hello each time we passed each other and it lifted my mood. But, since I’m no longer training for the South Downs Way, I’ve let that particular fitness routine lapse, so unfortunately I haven’t seen her in a while.
It struck me that life would be so much more pleasant if we all had a smile buddy in the places we frequent. Imagine seeing your smile buddy on the bus or train in the morning, or at the cafe you pass everyday in your lunch hour. Imagine smile buddies in the gym, in the park, at your local restaurant.
The Health Benefits of Smiling
It’s been proven time and time again that smiling is good for you. In a recent study scientists at the University of Kansas found that smiling lowered the stress response in the test participants. Turns out there’s a lot of truth in the old adage ‘Just grin and bear it’ and smiling is good for your heart.
Smiling also lifts your mood. Research backed by The British Dental Health Foundation in 2005 revealed that a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving £16,000 in cash.
Psychologist Dr David Lewis, who analysed the results of the research said that seeing a smile creates what is termed as a “halo” effect, helping us to remember other happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated.
And, if you still need convincing, how about this saying I remember from my childhood. It was positioned at the bottom of the escalator in a city department store and read:
Smile! It makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.
That made me smile every time I saw it. Still does.
So remember, you don’t have to wait for someone to smile at you. Smile first and see what happens. The results may surprise you.