What a Smile Means

Smiles are infectious

Whilst pondering what to write in this column, I find myself trying to analyse just what it is that makes me happy. I’m trying to shy away from the ‘big’ things like ‘friends’, ‘love’ and all that wonderful yet woefully unspecific jazz. During the summer holidays, one idea hit me like a metaphorical truck. It was my first day out, alone, wandering round my little hometown since finally leaving the Durham Bubble for the summer. It was a glorious summer’s day, but with a gentle breeze to make it that bit more enjoyable. However, for someone used to the chirpiness and general welcoming aura that locals, staff and students of Durham generally seem to give off, I found coming home quite a surprising contrast. It is a town full of the elderly and young families, yet not a single kind old gentleman, or friendly young mum felt it within themselves to return my smile as they walked past me on the street. Most of the people around me didn’t seem to smile at all, to be honest. (Apart from the children. Children seem to have a charming ability to be quite happy at nothing.) And this brings me on, albeit meanderingly, to what a smile means.

A smile gives out more than just the impression of happiness. It has the effect of both making you actually feel happier (go on, try it!) and the effect of bringing everyone else around you that little bit more at ease. Think about it. When someone smiles at you, be it a ‘hello’ smile, a ‘this is fun’ smile or even a ‘I’m here for you’ smile, it brings with it a feeling of warmth and comfort, even from a total stranger. This is why I smile at people in the street, and why I love how so many people in our wonderful city of Durham smile right back. Some days, some people go further, and even offer a friendly ‘Hello’ to go with it, which never fails to make my day!

A smile can mean you’ve taken the time to think of the person you’re smiling at, even if they’re a complete stranger and you made eye contact for only a second. That effect can melt away some of the causes of a bad day away, spur someone on if they’re feeling indecisive or simply add a little bit of friendliness to someone’s afternoon. Whilst I’m not saying a smile itself will necessarily give everyone some form of Hollywood style super-happiness, it’s always worth remembering that it’s the little things that can and will make a big difference. A smile may only take a moment, but its effects can last a whole lot longer.

Keep on smiling everyone! 😀

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