‘London is such a miserable place.’
‘Nobody talks to each other.’
‘Nobody even makes eye contact.’
How many times have you heard people say that about London – or in fact any other place in the world? And it often feels true, doesn’t it? I can remember the first time I went running before work in London – I ran from my office in London Bridge 5km up the side of the Thames to Vauxhall and back again. It was November, it was cold, it was dark (it was 7am), it was a workday, I really didn’t want to be there and sure enough, not one person acknowledged me for the first kilometre, so I literally put my head down and got on with it, feeling pretty miserable.
Then I had a word with myself and decided to approach the next day differently. I gave myself the challenge of making one person – just one person – smile at me. I tried to make eye contact with everyone I passed, and if I did, I shot them a smile. It became a game; my smiles became genuine. Some people looked blank, some people looked terrified, but one or two smiled back! That me from November would be surprised to run with me now, four months later. There are other regular runners who say hi, two security guards on the Millennium Wheel who wave, a homeless man who returns my nod, a cleaner who always gives me a huge smile and a Big Issue seller who…well, I am gently working on him…
Our experience of the world is often a reflection of what we put out there – some say we are holding a mirror up to ourselves. And it would be lovely if we all felt happy and smiley all the time, but sometimes we just don’t have it in us to flash a big genuine smile that may or may not be returned, I know. But this is the amazing thing: while a real smile allows your body to release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – all chemicals that make us feel good – and reduces cortisol – the stress hormone, pretending to smile triggers the same reactions in your body! There have been all sorts of scientific studies done – right back to Charles Darwin – that confirm the use of the facial muscles is part of how the brain evaluates mood, so when you arrange your face into a smile – even a pretend one – your brain assumes you’re happy and makes all the chemical changes it does with a real smile (so combine this with a little positive imagining and you’ll be able to shift your moods at will). Basically, fake it and you will make it.
Maybe you could set yourself a weekend task to try this out? When you’re out and about, make eye contact with a few people and flash them a smile. Don’t feel down heartened if you don’t get a reaction – sometimes people just aren’t used to strangers smiling and can’t organise their face appropriately before they’ve passed by; try again and again and it will feel great when you do get a positive response.
And if you’re not going anywhere this weekend, just try smiling on your own. Notice the positive effects and enjoy them.
There’s a story we were told when we trained that I really like:
“A farmer was working the land between two villages – one at the top of a mountain and one at the bottom – and a monk stopped to talk. ‘I’m moving from the village at the top of the mountain to the one at the bottom. I loved my village – everyone is so happy and friendly. Do you know what the village down there is like?’
‘I believe you will find it exactly as the one you have left’ replied the farmer.
A few days later another monk stopped the farmer. He said ‘I’m moving from the village at the top of the mountain to the one at the bottom. The village at the top of the mountain is gloomy and miserable. Do you know if the village down there is as bad?’
Once again, the wise farmer replied ‘I believe you will find it exactly as the one you have left.’ “
You can choose which monk to be today, and every day.
A little explanation: I’m sharing these tips and tricks as I think they can help lots of us live a more sparkly life and they also demonstrate the power of our mind and body. When you come for hypnosis we utilise that power, but in a deeper way, unique to you and what it is you want to achieve.