When was the last time someone made you smile?
Whether it comes from a family member, a friend or a stranger, random acts of kindness can brighten even the darkest of days. This is the idea behind 7daysofSmiles, an online experiment which challenges us to show kindness towards others over a period of seven days, in an attempt to make them smile or laugh.
The project was created by Mike Correll, who lives near San Francisco. Mike had suffered a serious injury which had left him house-bound with very limited mobility. Mike struggled with depression as a result of the emotional toll his injury had placed on him, as well as the physical pain he suffered.
Realising that something had to change, Mike worked on regaining some of his mobility. With the help of a walking aid, he ventured outside and decided to go to the beach. Whilst there, he met a homeless man who was in a wheelchair. The man was missing part of his leg. The man laughed and joked with Mike, telling him he had too many toes. Mike and the man laughed together. When the man apologised to Mike for bothering him, Mike replied that he wasn’t bothering him at all, that he had made him laugh. Mike told the man he thought he had forgotten how to laugh.
When the man left to have some food offered to him by passers-by, Mike watched as he entertained and laughed with those who had offered him food. A bird then sat beside the man, and the man shared his food with the bird. More birds came over, and the man shared his food with all of them.
Mike realised that we would like to be more like this man, and felt that his problems didn’t seem quite so severe. His foot was healing, and he would walk again, unlike the man in the wheelchair. Despite his own physical limitations and homelessness, the man had shown kindness to other people, as well as the birds who had shared his food.
Mike believed that if a man who had so many challenges and burdens to face in life could still show kindness to others, anyone could.
This experience changed Mike’s entire outlook on life, and inspired him to create the 7DaysofSmiles challenge. The challenge aims to inspire us to commit to showing kindness to others over a period of seven days. The aim is to make at least one person laugh or smile every day, and to share our experiences with others to encourage them to join in.
Kindness helps Others and Ourselves
It is easy to forget sometimes, when we are busy and struggling to prioritise the things we have to do in our everyday lives, that simple acts of kindness to each other not only have the potential to make someone day, but can also have a positive effect on our own wellbeing.
Kindness is good for all of us, and projects like the 7DaysofSmiles challenge show that the kindness of others can inspire great things. Why not give it a try?
The Benefits of Smiling
The 7DaysofSmiles challenge encourages us to try to make others smile. While this may seem like a simple act, smiling has many physical and psychological benefits. The act of smiling activates neurotransmitters in our brains which make us feel good and can lift our mood.
Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are all released when we smile, and these neurotransmitters lower heart rate, blood pressure, and act as a pain reliever. Studies have also shown that smiling makes us appear more physically attractive.
Research into the act of smiling has also shown that when we smile, it is contagious. When someone smiles at you, the brain generates an automatic response and chances are you will mimic the person by returning the smile.
Studies have shown that it takes a conscious effort to respond to a smile with a frown, because our automatic response is to smile back. So if you are smiling, those around you will likely also be smiling!
Start your 7DaysofSmiles Challenge today! You can learn more at the official website. You can also participate and follow the campaign on social media. Facebook, Twitter: @7DaysOfSmiles #SmilesChallenge #Kindness4Smiles, and, Instagram: 7daysofsmiles.
Be sure to share your experiences with us below too!
Written by Jennifer McElroy, The Green Rooms Psychology Assistant