Smile, smile, smile.

I’ve been noticing how little I smile—my face stays pretty serious, for the most part. For example, when I drop the Big Girl off at school in the morning, I see people I know, but although I say "hello" and feel perfectly friendly, I don't actually smile much. I'm aware of this because when I do smile, it has an unfamiliar feeling.

And I’ve been trying to change that.

As obvious as it seems, studies do show that I’ll be perceived as more friendly if I spend more time with a smile on my face during a conversation (it also helps to have an expressive face, to nod, to lean forward, to have a warm tone).

Emotions are contagious, so if I seem friendly and happy, I’ll help communicate that mood to other people.

And attraction is reciprocal; we tend to like people who seem to like us. So if I’m smiling and friendly to a person, that person is more likely to feel friendly toward me.

For a while, as part of the Happiness Project, I tried to have a real conversation with all the people I encounter in my daily life: in my coffee shop, at the drug store, with people waiting in line. I found this draining and difficult, however. I admire people who can connect easily with others wherever they go, but this isn’t one of my gifts.

But I realized that even if I can’t chat, I can be actively friendly. I can say “Hi” or “Sorry” or “Thanks” or “Have a great weekend” with warmth in my voice, and I can give a real smile. Just this little bit of extra effort does make an interaction far more pleasant than a neutral, business-like transaction.

Some people take the view that happy people annoy others with their cheeriness. Nope. Studies show most people like happy people more than less-happy people: they rate happier folk as more friendly, more warm, less selfish, more moral, and more physically attractive.

And apart from its effect on my dealings with other people, smiling makes me feel happier. Actions trigger feelings, so by going through the motions of feeling happier, I change my mood. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

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If you enjoy taking personality tests, check out the Authentic Happiness website. It has tests for happiness, depression, character strengths, relationship style, forgiveness, and many other characteristics. Some fascinating information there.

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