On the bus on my way to class today, I randomly met a friend (that hardly ever happens to me – I guess I just don’t have that many friends… in any case, I love it). He asked me how I was doing. And I said that I was tired and sleep-deprived from staying up until 2 AM last night to finish a presentation for today’s class (voluntarily too, but that’s a whole different topic). He remarked that it was unusual and kind of cool that I was smiling despite that.
That got me thinking, that, indeed, I smile and laugh a lot. Even when I’m alone, or walking somewhere, or reading a book on a bus. I think of or remember something nice or funny (no matter how little significance it might actually have). Or a passage (it even doesn’t have to be funny) in a book I’m reading makes me think that a person saying the words is smiling. And I smile to myself. Sometimes I also smile, apparently, for no reason at all. Or sometimes I smile when it’s hard. When I broke my arm this spring (the accident was so pathetic it was sort of funny) and I went to the hospital and people were angry and rushing around and I felt lost (because it was the first time I was in a hospital without my mum). When I finally got to the doctor he was rather suspicious as to why I was almost laughing. Looking back, I guess, he might have thought I could be on drugs or have a head trauma or something).
And I think that it must be a sad country I live in that a smiling person is so unusual that people may think something’s wrong with you if you smile. My favourite poet actually wrote a poem about a guy who is standing on a street and smiling, just standing and smiling; and another guy comes up to him and asks why he’s smiling; the smiler immediately gets all defensive and the smile vanishes.
I remember when I went to study in Denmark for a while – over there, any random passing-by people smile to each other. In this country, we tend to blame the rainy, cloudy climate for our bad mood, but Denmark’s even worse-off at that department. Admittedly, we’re not as well-off as Danish folk, but life’s not so bad here either. So, I keep wondering why people like to walk with their faces screwed-up. If anything, it makes things seem worse, and smiling helps make things better. That’s what psychologists say anyway. And I’ve tried it myself – it works. It’s like a weird back-wards effect. Normally, when you feel good, your brain is full of a particular neurotransmitter, which, among other things, makes you smile. But when you don’t feel good and you smile, you can trick your brain into thinking, ‘hey, I’m smiling, so I must be feeling all right.’ It then starts producing the feel-good neurotransmitters (or whatever), and you may notice that you start feeling better. Try it sometime and let me know if it works – one person is hardly a reliable sample. And even if it doesn’t work, at least the lines you’re getting will be the nice laughter ones and not the screwed-up-face ones, and who knows maybe it’ll prompt another person to smile back to you. Now, that’s always nice, isn’t it?
Wishing for more smiling people,