I donned my Halloween costume last Oct. 31 in the middle of the day and began to run errands. I was under the mistaken assumption that office staff and store clerks would be feeling equally festive and that I’d see lots of like-costumed folk.
No one else had gotten the “let’s-dress-up” memo. I was the only giraffe, replete with horns and a furry tail, pushing a shopping cart at Vons.
Then something happened I hadn’t expected. People saw me and instantly grinned. My silly get-up lightened their mood. Their shoulders relaxed. Intense expressions melted into mirth. Without even trying, I’d brightened complete strangers’ days.
I felt good, too. Rather than feeling embarrassed or out of place, I enjoyed the positive vibes my outfit created.
Research abounds about the benefits of making others happy. In his book, The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks introduces the term “helper’s high” to define the powerful physical feelings people experience when they are directly helping others.
He goes on to explain the relationship between good health and volunteering, citing his own findings that volunteer helpers are 10 times more likely to be in good health than those who don’t volunteer.
Eliciting smiles makes you seem more approachable. A 2004 Penn State University study found that smiling employees seemed more likeable and friendly and that their customers left the interactions feeling more satisfied about the overall experience.
Smiling can even make people work harder. Research appearing in the July 10, 2010 Guardian showed that subjects who were happier after viewing a comedy film were 12 percent more productive; unhappy co-workers were 10 percent less productive.
The takeaway here is simple. Smiling benefits everyone. Never pass up the chance to make it happen.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
8 ways to ensure instant smiles
▪ Catch someone by surprise. Plan an unexpected outing or bring home a favorite dessert for no reason. They’ll feel honored by your efforts. You’ll feel good making it happen.
▪ Reach out to a stranger. Offer someone your seat on a crowded bus or strike up a conversation with a person in line at Food 4 Less.
▪ Be complimentary. Tell your co-worker you like her new haircut. Ooh and aah over your neighbor’s grandchild. We all need a dose of warm fuzzies now and again.
▪ Be kind. Write a tender note to a former classmate who just lost his mother. Pick flowers from your garden and bring them to a friend who’s feeling down.
▪ Do someone a favor. Pick up Grandma’s prescriptions from the pharmacy, then spend the afternoon visiting in her apartment.
▪ Smile — a lot. Seeing smiles brightens our days. Share yours every chance you get.
▪ Treat the folks behind you at the coffee shop. Then watch the look on their faces when the cashier says, “Your bill has already been paid!”
▪ Give a gift. Something tiny and unexpected says “You’re oh-so-special to me.” You feel good about giving; the recipient feels treasured and adored.