How I started smiling and what it changed for me

Today is the last day of our very inter­est­ing SMILE! pro­gram. Over a peri­od of 5 days, par­tic­i­pants receive tasks in the explore app. The tasks are sim­ple, but not easy: each day I have to make five peo­ple smile.
On the first day, it was easy: I could “choose” five peo­ple I would meet dur­ing the day and try to bring a smile on their facec by sim­ply smil­ing at them first. That worked. Easy. Tues­day, the task became more dif­fi­cult — I had to find five chil­dren and make them smile. You would say “Not a prob­lem at all!” — but: although I man­aged to get re-smiles from sev­er­al moms push­ing their strollers (unin­tend­ed, but not unpleas­ant at all) their off­spring was too busy to join me in my SMILE! com­pe­ti­tion. And the older kids — phew — try to make a 12-year-old cool cat smile — noth­ing hard­er than that. So after I fin­ished my first day suc­cess­ful­ly, I failed on the sec­ond. And on the third, the fourth and the last one, as well! I did not man­age to make five kids, pen­sion­ers or suits smile.
By the way, although I could not make my spe­cif­ic tar­get group smile, I was suc­cess­ful with many other peo­ple who either watched my con­tin­u­ous smil­ing or who thought being smiled at themselves.
Being a con­tes­tant in a typ­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion, I would have failed in the sense of not hav­ing reached my goal. But the SMILE! pro­gram is dif­fer­ent: After five days of con­sec­u­tive attempts to make peo­ple smile, I real­ized sev­er­al things which changed my atti­tude towards life in general:

  • Many peo­ple behave in an over­ly sober, if not down­right grim and obsti­nate way when not being in con­ver­sa­tion with oth­ers. Most peo­ple sit, stand or walk with pained expres­sions. Why?
  • Inter­est­ing­ly, most peo­ple imme­di­ate­ly react to being smiled at in a pos­i­tive­ly sur­prised and friend­ly way. They seem to be relieved being freed from a cer­tain power which forced them into some state of negativity.
  • If I had not been remind­ed by the explore app to smile and to tar­get dif­fer­ent peo­ple active­ly, I myself would have for­got­ten to smile, as well. Each time, explore noti­fied me to smile, I real­ized how far away fro a smile my state of mind was. I never would have thought that.

I have reached my per­son­al goal of the SMILE! pro­gram: I have start­ed to smile at peo­ple — proac­tive­ly, i.e. I don’t wait for peo­ple look­ing friend­ly or smil­ing at me. I start the “being-friendly-process”. And that’s cool — it’s a lot of fun since peo­ple around me become open, friend­ly, pos­i­tive! There are more nice encoun­ters with unknown peo­ple, and life feels lighter, better.
And that is what the SMILE! pro­gram in par­tic­u­lar, and all explore app pro­grams in gen­er­al are about: explore learns about your behav­ior and encour­ages you to change it — day by day, in small steps. Bonus: explore is per­son­al­ized: it knows whether I attain my goals and the app then sends its rec­om­men­da­tions based on my indi­vid­ual behavior.
Behav­iour change is one of the tough­est top­ics in psy­chol­o­gy. Sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge is scant. But one find­ing seems to be safe: the qual­i­ty of a per­son­’s well-being is bet­ter the more often this per­son gains pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences. And with spe­cif­ic pro­grams based on apps like explore these small expe­ri­ences can be trig­gered. I think that this can help peo­ple to change their behav­ior — some­thing many of us are dream­ing of.
The photo of this friend­ly chap was shot at a farm near Weilheim.

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