The smiling exercise (a thought experiment that spreads happiness)

I love doing thought experiments in this column. Thought experiments are little mental exercises that help us get outside of ourselves. They can be a way to hit reset on our busy brains, a way to get a fresh perspective. Ever notice the feeling you get when you are walking around with a smile on your face?

I usually feel a bit goofy, a little self-conscious. But then my fear is allayed the minute I come in contact with another person. Seeing my goofy face makes a smile pop up on their face.

“Why are you smiling?” they ask through their own grin.

If I have an appropriate answer, like a story about something my son did, a conversation starts. If I don’t have an appropriate answer, our smiles grow even bigger.

“I don’t know,” I say sheepishly as my smile takes over my face.

“Oh? OK,” they say, following the beam of their new smile down the hall.

Unlike frowning, people don’t always need a reason for smiling and I don’t always have a reason. Sometimes I am just smiling as an exercise.

There are three rules to the smiling exercise: 1) Do it on purpose. 2) Do it often. 3) Start in the morning.

I emphasize smiling on purpose. Smiling can be a reaction that our faces do automatically, but smiling on purpose jump-starts the feeling of giddiness.

Smiling on purpose also allows us to dispense smiles more often, like Pez from a Pez dispenser, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sad person holding a Pez dispenser!

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