How I started smiling and what it changed for me

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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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