One day earlier this year, something someone said really upset me. I can't remember what they said, which of course shows how trivial most of our annoyances are, but in the moment, it mattered. I knew I wasn't going to easily move past it, I knew that I needed to do something, so I took a walk. I thought the walk might be enough to help me move past this feeling I had, but it wasn't. So I started mindfully breathing during the walk, being sure to come back to my breath whenever my mind wandered, still nothing. I then practiced gratitude, and although it helped, I still couldn't shake this feeling.
I had nearly completed my walk when I thought I'd try one more thing: a smile. Smiling wasn't what my emotions compelled me to do, but I remembered that sometimes our emotional state will follow the physical state we put our body in. So I smiled, and something changed. Suddenly the annoyance seemed more trivial than ever. Suddenly I noticed what a beautiful day it was and how the light shone through the trees that stood before me. One simple physical change and suddenly I remembered that nothing so silly was worth distracting me from all I have to be grateful for.
A quote from Thich Nhat Hanh captures my experience beautifully:
“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful...How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural--you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.”
We are more than our sorrow or any negative emotions we feel, and to all of it, we can smile.
The next time you enter into a conversation, approach a problem, receive critical feedback, end your day, or rise for a new day, start with a smile.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
Both for you and others, your smile can be the light. Be the light, start with a smile.