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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Smile! It's Free Therapy!












Thought for the Day: A hearty laugh lengthens your life. 
                                                                              SWEDISH PROVERB
 Has a stranger's smile or comment ever made your day? I'd love to hear about it.

I remember coming out of a film in NYC a few years ago. I smiled at a young woman. She came over & told me that I had a beautiful smile. She thanked me for smiling. She had been having a rough day & my smile helped her. We spoke for a few minutes. She was new to the country from Latin America & had been feeling a bit homesick. I wished her well & thanked her for her compliment. It made me feel good that I was able to help someone just by smiling.

A new client who recently moved to Connecticut from the south complained about how hard it is for her to adjust to living in New England. She finds that no one smiles back when she smiles at them.

Having grown up in Texas I know that different parts of the country have different norms when it comes to interacting with strangers. On my first visit back to the US after living abroad, I went to Austin with my brothers. We were walking down the street & my brother, Mike, who was living in Austin at the time, said hello to someone who passed by. I asked my brother if he knew them. He told me he did not, but that everyone says hello in Texas.

Having lived in New England now for many years, I know that the client's complaint was based on reality. We have all been taught, growing up, not to talk to strangers. In a world where negative news makes headlines, the danger of strangers is a necessary part of parenting our children. However, as adults hopefully, we can learn who to trust & befriend. Smiling or saying good morning does not need to be avoided. I encouraged my client to keep smiling & looking for opportunities to speak with people. Even in New England, it will happen. It just seems to take a little longer to get to know the norms of speaking to strangers. Research has shown that smiles do lead to having smiles returned http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1992-09025-001 so if you keep trying people will smile back. Sometimes this can lead to a conversation & a new friend or acquaintance. In this part of the country where the winter keeps people at home more, it also helps to join groups or take a class to start new friendships.

We know that laughter lengthens our lives. Research shows it acts like exercise strengthening our hearts. Seems to me it's a pretty easy workout! Smiles also feel like free therapy. So wherever you are, north, south, east or west, make someone's day a little better. Share a smile or a laugh & see how it feels. You may make someone's day & improve yours at the same time.



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