Let me set the scene of a normal day in the life of me. I wake up at 6.30am and get ready for work, I still live at home so the first people I see in the morning are my Mum and Dad. I probably mumble a hello at them through my cornflakes but mostly stay silent. I make my way to the station to get the 7.26am train to London. I manage to muscle my way to the front of the crowd so I’m the first to get on the train but most people barely glance up – it’s too early to look at one another let alone interact. On the train I’m surrounded by hundreds of people but I never actually look at any of them, I’m just aware they’re there. Then I get off the train at Waterloo and join the hordes heading towards the bus. It’s about 8.20am when I get on the bus, still too early to smile at the bus driver, still too early to have a chat with the person I’m standing 1cm away from. I can probably tell you what their wife’s name is because I can read the text message they’re typing right under my nose. But I can’t look at them, that would break all morning protocols. Once I get off the bus I make the short walk to my office, head down and probably reading some work email or something. I might bump into someone on the way and murmur an apology, they are almost certainly also reading something on their phone so don’t even notice. Finally I make it safely into the confines of my office, here at about 9am, having been up 2.5 hours already, I’ll raise my first smile of the day. Well I can hardly scowl at the man who pays my wages, can I? It’s a funny world really. And I consider myself quite a smiley, cheerful person…
So for challenge four, I set myself a mission to smile at every single person I encountered for a whole 24 hours. Because, you know, there are a few interesting facts about smiling. Number one being that smiles are known to boost your mood, aiding me in my quest to get happy. And number two is they’re contagious, so how many people will also be happy as a result of my simple action. Let’s see…
6.45am: I wake up and smile at myself in the mirror, start as you mean to go on and all that. I can’t say it makes getting up in the cold that much easier but I do feel a tiny mood boost and I walk downstairs to my breakfast with my head held up so for the first time in a week I don’t trip over the box I’ve left outside my bedroom door. This smiling malarkey is already doing me a good turn.
7am: I smile and say ‘good morning’ to both my Mum and my Dad, it comes out louder and slightly more forced sounding then I intended. My Mum looks slightly shocked but smiles and returns my good morning. My dad on the other hand asks what I’ve got to be so cheerful about…
7.20am: I arrive at the station and smile at the station staff member, he smiles back and wishes me a good day. I remember he’s the one I like because he always smiles at me and brightens up my early morning, I realise that I’ve been ‘catching’ smiles off of him for months so I’m very happy to finally return the favour.
8.20am: Walking through Waterloo, I realise for the first time how many hundreds of people I pass every morning. I walk through the station with a grin attached to my face and not one person returns my smile. A few people look at me smiling manically and give me an odd look but no one smiles. Most people don’t even notice me.
8.25am: There’s a bus strike today, cue lots of even unhappier commuters than usual. The bus is more packed than normal and it’s always full to the rafters. The driver is probably having a terrible day so I give him a huge smile as I pass and he smiles back, of all people I hope I’ve raised his spirits just a little. I dread to think what he’ll have to put up with from both passengers and his fellow striking staff today.
8.35am: I arrive at work and my line manager is already there, I smile brightly at her and offer a cup of tea. All this smiling has made me generous as well.
1pm: It’s lunch break time, I’ve smiled throughout the morning but I’m generally quite cheerful so I don’t think my colleagues have noticed that much of a difference. It’s been a good morning though and we got some good news as well, maybe the universe has caught my smile and is looking down on me.
1.05pm: I go to Sainsburys to buy lunch and both me and another man reach for the last exotic fruit salad at the same time. I flash him a smile and offer it to him (through gritted teeth, I bloody love an exotic fruit salad AND they’re on offer for £1 today). He smiles back and says ‘No love you take it.’ Finally this smile stuff is actually getting me somewhere, I’m not about to refuse that!
1.07pm: At the till, the checkout lady is chatting to the checkout lady next to her. This is a pet hate of mine, I used to work in a similar environment and I know this is the first rule of customer service. Usually I’d ignore her for being so rude but I force myself to look her directly in the eye, flash her a huge smile and wish her a nice day. She looks a little red faced.
2pm: I’m answering the door to clients today and of course I always smile at them anyway and make polite small talk. I try to notice who actually smiles back at me today though, and if they don’t I keep the smile on my face until they do. So far I’ve got a clean sheet, every single person has smiled at me. I hope that this means I’m passing on some happiness and positivity but as most want something from the company I work for it’s probably just them forcing themselves to be polite to the crazy junior member of staff.
4.20pm: I just had someone break my clean sheet. I smiled at him through our small talk for around four whole minutes and smiled extra hard when I re-entered the room to give him his coffee. I’ve learnt that some people are just immune to smiles.
6pm: It’s the end of the work day and time to join the crush back to home. This is usually the time I am at my least smiley because the commute home is a nightmare and my least favourite part of the day. I take a deep breath before leaving the office and remember to keep smiling, I feel weirdly positive.
6.05pm: The bus queue is the worst queue ever (and worst than the worst because of the bus strike today), no one sticks in a line and I hate it when people arrive late and push in. But today as someone pushes past me I just have to smile. It feels really weird and they look at me bizarrely. I smile at the guy next to me in the queue too and he smiles back and let’s me get on first. See, no need to push, just smile and you get the same effect. This is one time I’m going to make sure to smile everyday!
6.20pm: I’m running for the train as usual, and smile as I accidentally hit the man handing out Evening Standards. Usually I’d feel really guilty and stop to apologise but I just shout sorry and seeing my smile, he smiles back. One less thing to feel guilty about.
6.24pm: I’m standing squished next to every conceivable part of a person I don’t know on this train. I often think how bizarre it is that I get physically closer to these random strangers then I get to my best friends. I smile at them and if I wasn’t only just over 5 foot, I think they’d find it very creepy. As I’m small and look pretty innocent they just think I’m crazy. But one lady starts a conversation with me (shock horror! Not on a commuter train!) and we end up chatting, with all the carriage listening no doubt, about how ridiculous it is paying all the money we do and still packing in worse than cattle. It makes me feel better and the time genuinely goes quicker, which is what you want when you can’t move any part of you without touching a stranger in an inappropriate place.
7.10pm: My Dad gives me a lift home from the station and I definitely don’t have to force a smile when I see him sitting in the car as I dash through the rain.
And that really ends my day, after this I just watched TV and did some work with my family. I did lots of smiling but this is usually my smiliest time anyway.
What have I learnt from challenge four? Smile more! It genuinely does make your day better and that night I had a think back and actually remembered most of the stranger’s faces who smiled back at me. How nice is that, to just remember a bunch of strangers whom I would have usually instantly forgotten.
I’ve learnt smiles are 100% contagious, there is no doubt in my mind about that. So why wouldn’t I want to cheer someone up with such a small little thing. And okay I won’t be doing this challenge everyday because let’s face it, it was incredibly embarrassing walking through Waterloo with that huge grin on my face. In fact, there were quite a few times when a red face accompanied my smile so there are definitely moments I’ll keep my expression neutral in future. But little things like smiling at the guard who let me through the train station this morning, smiling and wishing a good day to the grumpy lady in Sainsburys and smiling at the woman that I was stood ridiculously close to on the train home. I will definitely keep giving out little smiles like those because they cheer my day up as well as someone else’s. One day my smile might make me a brand new best friend or a brilliant work contact or it might even get me a discount on my morning Starbucks. You never know.
So as the old saying goes, turn that frown upside down (it uses less muscles than frowning you know?!) and let me know If you have a go at my challenge four at all – even if it’s just for one hour. I’d love to know how you get on 🙂