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There are times when I can find it depressing writing about a stuck economy or about disastrous world events. Sometimes I intentionally search for a topic that is more optimistic and positive.

A while back, my wife and I encountered our daughter’s good friend, Sarah.  As always – and I really mean always – Sarah greeted us with her incredibly wonderful smile. Just seeing her immediately raised my spirits.

Later, I commented to my wife what a great blessing it is whenever we see Sarah. She consistently greets us with her great smile. She is always upbeat and positive. I am not naïve enough to believe that Sarah doesn’t have bad days. Yet, somehow, she has mastered the ability to smile. And, based on my infrequent interactions with her, smiling for her is a way of life.

A few years back, I came across a poem by an unknown author. The title of the poem is, “The Value of a Smile.” Here it is:

A smile costs nothing, but gives much.
It takes but a moment,
But the memory of it usually lasts forever.

***

None are so rich that can get along without it;
And none are so poor but that can be made rich by it.
It enriches those who receive
Without making poor those who give.

***

It creates sunshine in the home,
Fosters good will in business,
And is the best remedy for trouble;
And yet it cannot be begged, borrowed, or stolen,
For it is of no value unless it is given away.

***

Some people are too busy to give you a smile;
Give them one of yours.
No one needs a smile so badly
As someone who has no more smiles left to give.

***

There are many days that, for some reason, I wake up but do not approach the day with optimism. Whether I am overtired, preoccupied, have too much to do, etc., I awaken with the burden of life on my mind and no smile on my face. I have learned, on those days, that making a conscious decision – once I fully wake up – to smile does wonders for how I feel and how the day goes. The intentional act of trying to be positive and smiling as though it is a good day – until it becomes a good day – often allows me to turn a mundane day into a positive one.

While my reasons for trying to smile more often are really centered on a desire to improve the quality of my day for me personally, the interaction with Sarah and her smile, as well as the poem above, made me realize that a smile has much more power to influence others than I thought.

First, people remember a great smile. I wrote in one of these Insight articles some time ago about an experience at a fast-food restaurant where the laughter and fun that the workers were having as they took orders caused everyone who was there to leave with a smile on their face and a jump in their step. Sarah’s smile has a similar impact.

Can you imagine the impact if all of us made an effort to smile more? How different we would feel after a day of interacting with others. The reality is that we all need to receive more smiles. And one of the best ways to get more smiles is to smile more at others.

The power of a smile goes beyond the fact that it makes us feel good. A great smile also carries with it a tremendous amount of power. It can change the tone of a business meeting. It can bridge the gap between young and old. It can also remove racial and cultural gaps. When you smile – or you are smiled at – it promotes an openness to friendship as opposed to the potential threat we signal when we approach a new situation with a dour expression.

Smiling more will not cost you time. It simply requires you to practice smiling, not just when you feel like it, but whenever possible. The key is to make an intentional decision to smile. If you smile more, you will also soon realize that the way people react to you changes. For example, smiling when meeting new people will likely make it more likely that you start a friendship with them. Or it may well increase the likelihood that you will receive better service.

Smiling more also just makes you feel better. To some extent, if you act like life is good – and you smile more – your life is more likely to take a turn for the better. Approaching other people and situations with optimism and expecting positive results will improve the quality of your life over time. And finally, your ability to smile more on a daily basis can be an excellent barometer to measure how well you are doing at developing a more positive attitude on a daily basis.
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