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The Art of Smiling

Photo by Tina Su
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Actually, there isn’t any art behind it. Just that you were born to be happy, and you can show this happiness with that beautiful smile of yours. C’mon! Let’s see it. :) Okay, good.

To some extent, we all know how to spot a genuine smile, basically this formula:

Genuine Smile = Crinkly Eyes

bbc-faces.jpg We are all sensitive to this genuine scale, so why then is it that when we cross paths with a stranger or casual acquaintance in the elevator, we give them a fake smile? That ‘polite smile’. You know what I’m talking about (don’t get me wrong, I do this too, unconscious at grocery stores, on streets, while waiting for something.).

The lesson? Smile with your eyes! Feel it genuinely and it will come out naturally.

Extras: check out this quick interactive quiz from BBC to test out your ability to spot the difference between a real smile and a fake one.

Side Note: I am now smiling as I write this article. I love it! Thank you for reading and allowing me to express myself creatively.

A smile is so simple, yet so powerful. Some noticeable effects of externalizing your internal joy are:

  • People will be attracted to you – I don’t mean sexually (well, maybe that too), but people will feel drawn to your energy. When you smile more, you will carry an aura and poise that will draw people to you. People will look forward to being around you, knowing only that they feel great around you. People on the street, at work, your friends etc. We all like and want to be around happy and cheerful people, right?
  • Optimistic – You’ll feel more positive about yourself and the world.
  • Happiness & Joy – A smile is an expression of happiness and joy in you. Like an upward spiral, a smile will boost the happiness you feel.
  • Healthy – A smile can affect your internal state, which can have physiological impact on your physical and mental health.
  • Approachable – A smile is so welcoming and will make people feel more at ease.
  • Making Other People Happy – A smile has the power to make other people feel good about themselves. It’s heart-warming and has the power to cheer up others instantly.
  • Smiles Are Contagious – Others can quickly and easily catch it and will experience the above ‘side effects’.

Take The Smiling Challenge!


  • Smile at Strangers -You know those times when we cross paths with a stranger or accidentally catch someone’s gaze, and we (both) would suddenly look away in awkwardness or pretend we are looking at something else? Well, the challenge is to give them a big smile. A genuine smile, showing teeth and everything. Deepak Chopra talks about giving each person you encounter a small gift. I do this with a smile. Why not? It doesn’t cost us anything. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than feeling awkward and pretending you’re not there.I also love to see people’s reactions when you smile at them, and they aren’t expecting it. Some blush, and others are surprised and smile back, which makes me feel all warm inside.
  • Smile at Homeless People and Street Hagglers –

    I live in a part of downtown Seattle with lots of street hagglers and homeless people. People often ask me whether I get ‘harassed’ often. The answer is: sometimes. But they really are very nice, just like the rest of us. They too need attention and acknowledgment. So, give them a gift worth more than money.Next time someone asks you for money, don’t try to ignore them. Turn to them, smile warmly and tell them how you feel. If you don’t feel like giving money, just tell them “Sorry, I don’t have change now. Have a beautiful day!”Similarly, if something is trying to sell you something or ‘hitting-on’ you, simply turn to them, smile and say “No thank you.”I’ve found that it takes more energy to ignore and pretend to be very serious, than it is to smile. So smile! Make someone’s day!

  • Smile Fully -You know that half smile we give people when we’re trying to be polite? Like on an elevator, bumping in someone at the front door, or waiting in line. Why not practice giving them a real smile? It’ll be less awkward and you can potentially make someone’s day, or a new friend!
  • Smile at Work -Living under a routine, we can easily be in a zombie-like state when coming into work. We zip into work quickly following the same routines we’ve habituated. Our target is to get to work, and we can sometimes forget about the people around us, in other cubes/offices/departments. So, the challenge is to practice beaming with smile as you come into work. Smile genuinely with people you meet. Be completely pleased to see them. Make it a focus for the day, to bring more happiness into the lives of others. Ask them genuinely and infused with energy, “How are ya?”How was your weekend?” Watch the smiles surface on their face.
  • A Small Compliment with Your Smile -When meeting or encountering people. Look for things you admire or like about them, however small, let them know. A small genuine compliment can go a long way to lift people’s spirits.

I’ve found it useful to be conscious of things that make me smile. You might want to spend a few minutes making a list of things that brings a smile to your face.

Some Moments That Make Me Smile are:


  • When Tommy (my eight pound Pomeranian doggie) does one of his tricks: spin in circles, playing dead, or his ‘moonwalk’ dance (that’s right, he moonwalks… *laughs*).
  • When I practice gratitude ‘sessions’
  • When I reach mini goals throughout the day.
  • When I read comments left by readers.
  • When savoring sweet taste of vanilla ice cream
  • When I do my happy dance, and make friends laugh with my ridiculousness.
  • When Adam (my partner) brings me food or chai in the morning as I’m working away on my laptop.
  • When my mother laughs

More Tips To Bring Smiles into Your Life

  • Smiling Journal – For two weeks, record the moments that brought out your wonderful smile. If you are ever feel down, flip through this book to be reminded of things that make you smile. Experience those moments and notice your state shift to a positive one. You cannot be both angry and smiling at the same time. I learned in physiological psychology that if the physical action conflicts with that of your feeling, the feeling inside will shift to match that of your outer sensation. One way to shift your emotion is to change your physiology.
  • Appreciation – Identify things that you are grateful for. Then focus on those things as much as possible.
  • Humor – Make a point to watch a comedy movie. To go a comedy club. Hang out with people who make you laugh.
  • Go On a Self Date – When we feel more connected with ourselves, we feel more joy and tend to naturally smile more.
  • Find Innocence – Observe a small child or a pet at play with total ease and freedom. Watch their innocence, enjoy their presence and yours. Are you smiling? Do you feel happy for them? That’s because you are connecting with the same innocence within yourself.


What makes you smile? Who made you smile today? Share your joy and happiness in a comment! See you there. *smiles*

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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115 thoughts on The Art of Smiling

  1. What a special site you have here. Look forward to returning.

  2. Hi Tina,

    Learning to smile has done much for me to open up as a person. I was an introvert. After learning to open up, I started smiling and people, and was so surprised to see people smiling back.

    These are people who usually just kept to themselves or a distance from me at work.

    It’s amazing what a simple and sincere smile can do.

  3. Tyro

    Hi Tina,

    I think no matter whaterer mood one have at present,If he come here and read this article,he may unconsciously smile,and become happy again.

    Thanks four you a lot,and by the way,could I transship the picture that photoed by you on the top of this page ?

    Gratitude & Sincerely,

  4. Oh you guys! It really warms my heart and makes me smile (really big) to see these sweet messages. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences. I will respond to each comment individually very soon. :)

    Have a beautiful one! Thank you again for participating. Love you all! Really.. I do. ^_^

  5. Hey Tina,

    Thanks for reminding us bloggers to smile :D

    I fully agree that “Smiles Are Contagious”. Don’t wait for people to smile at you, start smiling at them first. Most of the time you will get a smile back. :)

    Even when I am driving and people can’t see my smile, I wave (it’s like a smile for drivers) and people wave back! I tried it on the security guards where ever I go.

    If any of them don’t wave/smile back the first time, wave/smile again the next time you see them. I find that they will wave/smile back one day :)

    James Soh

  6. Hi James,

    haha.. I love your little story.. I was laughing out aloud. :) Thank You for sharing and for making my late evening such a happy one. :)

    Tell Karen I said Hi!

    Warm Regards,

  7. Chris Sharp

    Tina. Thank You! These are fantastic exercises to put into practice! I would love to start a smile journal. My wife and I share our daily wins or realizations in the evenings, and that brings us to smile and relax. Sharing great, healthy food, makes us smile a lot too.
    Practicing smiling deliberately, really feeling the appreciation of the moment with this person or persons to whom you peer into their souls, will melt separation and discomfort in the world faster than anything, I feel.
    Doing a happy dance would even add to the feeling 100X more!!! H-haaaaa!
    I remember from a simple exercise I learned from a Qi-Gong master (this is how I received it), was to close your eyes and breath in deeply. As you hold your breath for a few seconds, feel your whole being, your whole essence, look upon it ALL, marvel at what you see, then smile deeply, then let relax and breathe out slowly.
    Smiles to everyone here, sharing this great space together.

  8. Hey Chris,

    I love the idea of a “daily wins or realizations” sharing routine. I think I’m gonna suggest it to Adam and start to do that in the evenings too. Sounds like a great idea and way to connect with your partner. Also a great opportunity to be grateful for the many gifts we have, and also a chance to express ourselves.

    I also love the breathing technique from the qi-gong master.. I will try that.

    As always, thank you for sharing! :)

  9. To me it’s one of those, You’re never fully dressed without a smile things.

  10. One thing that really makes me happy is to smile to a kid in the subway. They always smile back, as well as their mother. Is awesome, and I usually get to college/home smiling because of that :)
    Great article, btw!

  11. Bex

    I loved this article. I used to be bullied a long time ago, and consequently developed a “tough-girl” attitude. I wore big biker boots, dyed my hair pink, and looked as pissed off as possible so nobody would mess with me.
    I haven’t been targeted for years now, and I don’t need my protective shell anymore. I’ve slowly been discovering my real, friendly self, and the joy of smiling. And your article made me love smiling even more, so I had to leave a comment. I hope it makes you smile. :)

  12. SG

    Your whole site makes me smile.
    Thanks for all the advice you give.
    Great great great ideas.

  13. @Bex – I loved reading your comment, it really warmed my heart and made me smile, indeed. Thank you for sharing your story and for making me smile. :)

    @SG – It makes me really happy to hear that. Thank you for your encouraging feedback. Much loved and appreciated.

  14. Mav

    When I think about it, I really like it if somebody genuinely smiles at me just passing on the street or in the office, but I actually never really had a thought about smiling actively at others. Thanks for the hint!

  15. I just found your site today and I think your advice on this page is brilliant! Very well written!

    Thanks for sharing!
    – Pete

  16. I love this post that I found through Alex’s blog carnival on personal development — so I StumbleUpon you!
    In fact, smiling a lot and celebrating life is one of my five wishes. Please check
    when you have the time.


  17. Smiling is definitely very important. Besides, it just feels good–smiling and seeing it inspiring a smile on the face of the person you are smiling at…
    Peace and wonder,

  18. Okay, I need to stop commenting, but after I read an article I want to tell you how much I enjoyed it! lol :)

  19. Luis

    I really would like to see your “happy dance”. If it’s like I imagined while reading along, I will smile again :D

  20. Mary

    I am a happy person but people are always commanding me to smile. I guess when I’m smiling on the inside it doesn’t show on the outside. Sometimes I think I’m smiling and someone will say, “It can’t be that bad.” Why are people so hung up on smiles?

  21. Love the post, Tina.

    It’s weird how clicking links on different sites will bring one to new and inspiring blogs.

    Keep up the good work.

    Here’s a smile for ya!


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