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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. Dan

    This was a great article. I once heard a story about a guy who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge, and the suicide note he left said, “If one person smiles at me on the walk to the bridge, I will not jump.” I don’t know if it’s true, but regardless, it’s a fact that there’s a lot of people who can truly be uplifted with one simple complement or smile.

  2. Panda

    When I have a difficult customer on the phone at work, I try to remember to smile. They can’t see my face, but it comes across in tone, and it will often help them to feel more understanding.

  3. jd

    Hey Tina –

    I didn’t know the basic formula, but now that you spell it out it makes perfect sense … I remember in a movie, the comment went something like “how come your eyes don’t smile.”

  4. TPhoenix8

    Hey Tina,

    A friend of mine send me a link to this beautiful page and I love it;-)

    I admire you for the times and effort you invest in yourself and more importantly that you will share with sooo many people.

    positive thoughts leads us to more positive thoughts, the same is it for actions. And if this action is a little smile it can cause big positive actions.

    You inspired me to smile more concsiously and I can’t wait to see more people smiling:D

    soo keep on smiling

  5. Emaah

    I’m surfing the internet in work and I came across your site on Digg. I’ve read a few and this is by far my favourite. (so far anyway.)

    I’ve just started 6 weeks work experience with people older than me and I keep finding myself doing these polite half smiles. Mainly I’m just very self concious but I’m definitley going to start smiling, well, fully.

    Good work. :D

  6. The smile of my 2 month old baby brother makes me smile. My twelve year old brother’s hilariousness makes me laugh out loud constantly, and today, this blog entry made me smile !!

    I have just discovered your site, and have only so far read two posts, but already I feel immensly inspired by it.

    Don’t stop writing!

    thank you :)

  7. Meg

    Hi everyone, I’m a newbie here.

    I apologize if someone already shared this; I didn’t read all the posts. I have heard many times that it takes more muscles to frown (42) than to smile (7). Another good reason to smile!

    Re: funny dog stories –
    When I was still living at home, my parents had a mini-dachshund. She looooved her biscuits that they gave her before bedtime every night. They were about 2-3″ long, but because she was so little herself, sometimes they got stuck in her mouth and wedged her jaw open. I remember several times being in my room doing homework and she would come trotting in with her mouth wide open because her biscuit was stuck. Sometimes if we didn’t notice, she would be like that for a while! She never figured out how to un-stuck it herself haha

  8. DT

    Awww~ Oh dear.

    I always love it when a random stranger smiles at me.
    It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and is a big boost to the greatness of my day!

    Thank you for the post! This makes me want to smile at random strangers more often! ^__^

  9. ZARA


  10. YASIR

    i had a tough time smiling in past but now i broke those shackles and smile out openly. Ha ha

    a little suggestion i think there should be a section where visitors can post there smilling photos and then there should be ranking as to whose smile is the best…

    what do u say?

  11. Mike Brown

    (Why isn’t this showing up?) You’re not alone in the “physically hard to smile” bit, James. Either my teeth are too short or my top lip is too long. It’s not especially comfortable to pull it back that far, and it takes more effort and a fraction of a second longer than other people, and even then I only show half what I’d like to. But, my experience is some people expect it or they think the smile is fake. Doing it more often makes it easier.

    Don’t worry, though. Cheap plastic surgery to restructure the bone in our faces to fix this is only 300 years off. Oh, wait….

  12. wonderful post tina ……..

  13. Nice! When I wake up I really try to start smiling and then all of the sudden I find myself being really aware of all the things I’m grateful for and the rest of my day goes in the same direction! It’s pretty amazing how much smiling and being positive can affect your life and the lives of all those around you. (I totally have great big smile right now!) Keep up the good writing!

  14. tepz

    this is nice i like it! hope you have a lot of this…its very very very inspiring…

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