A little while ago there was a lot of press about how smiling while doing an activity, like running, can make it seem less hard. A way to trick your brain, which might be saying ouchie, stop, and then you smile, and your brain goes, oh okay, I guess this is not so bad. That’s the logic anyways.
So, I’m happy to try anything to make running or cycling seem a little bit easier. So, I have been smiling along, whenever I can. If it’s easy I smile, if it’s hard I smile (might be more of a grimace, more on that below), and if I see someone, anyone, I smile.
And with all this smiling while exercising, it’s also filtered over to normal (non-sweaty) life. If Eben (my almost 4 year old) does something good (like wait for me to catch up as he whizzes on the pavement on his scooter 😬), I’ll flash him a full toothy smilie grin, you know totally over-the-top-style 😄 (when I catch up), he loves it, exclaiming, oh mummy your happy! Makes my little heart melt ♥️.
So, I’m on team smile, it’s the way forward. But what I have noticed is that brits aren’t so used to random strangers smiling at them. Here’s some of the things I have come to experience from all my smiling.
- I’m not coming on to you
I promise, I’m happily married 💍. But I know you can’t tell that while I am out running on my own. I promise, it’s just a friendly smile, not an invitation to cat-call me, or leer, or follow me. Just a smile. And to some of those ladies walking with their partners, who have shot me withering looks, after I smile, I’m not after your man. Again, just a smile.
- Grimace vs smile
Well, I can appreciate that sometimes it is hard to tell, especially towards the end of a tough hill climb, or interval, and I try to offer up a smile (probably more for my own benefit to ease the pain and trick my brain), and I end up grimacing at you 😬, as that is all my pained face can master. Hands up, I’m not some random grimacing runner, it was meant to be a friendly smile.
- You’ll remember me and that makes me safer
Either when I’m cycle commuting or out on a run, I make sure to make eye contact with drivers of other cars, big trucks, and buses 🚚. But I even go one step further, I flash them a big smile as well. As a cyclist on the roads, often cars see me as the enemy. I’m not the enemy, I’m just a girl trying to get home on her bike and it is scary enough already 💁 — so a friendly smile, in my mind will make sure that they don’t forget about me, and drive dangerously close to me, side swipe me, or worst run me over. And while running, if I smile at a stranger and make eye contact, I’m no longer a faceless anonymous runner, and I am that smilie, friendly, girl. And if god forbid anything were to happen while I was on my run, someone I smiled at would remember me (I hope), and maybe raise the alarm for help.
- Keeping the oldies sweet
It used to be, if I saw a little old biddie 👵 hobbling along the pavements at a snail’s pace, I’d brace myself for, at best an eye roll and tut, and at worse a piece of their mind. I’m often barrelling down pavements either running, or with my wild boys on their scooters, or on my bike (share cycle pavements only). I’ve decided to flash my biggest 24 carat smile at the golden oldies, and guess what it works, I get lots of lovely greetings, smiles, and comments 👋.
- I don’t mind if you don’t return the favour
As I run past many a runner, flashing a smile, I get a variety of facial responses instead of a return smile. I’m not bothered if you don’t return the favour – not only is it helping me run, but it’s always like some kind of strange social experiment to see what responses people give my smile.
- Shock – Looking at me like I’m crazy, stay away, run a different route next time
- Amusement – Often in the form of a smirk to themselves
- Avoidance – Very English head down mentality, ignore, ignore, ignore
- Shyness – Often if I see the same runner again, they will be brave enough to flash me a smile on the second lap
- And then someone just gets it…
… and smiles back at me, and it’s great. A full circle of benefits, shared, enjoyed, and received. Pain relief, camaraderie, friendliness, endorphins… and it’s over in a split second, but it is a second shared, in the best possible way.
So, do you smile while out running, exercise or just generally? I’d say, drop all the Englishness, give it a go, and just smile. Spreading a little happiness is never a bad thing, and remember, if you don’t get the response you might like in return – you are still benefitting yourself! Smile on…