smile challenge

filed under: I Am Mommy on November 7, 2013

It all started out simple.  I decided to challenge myself to smile every single time I spoke or communicated with someone for one day. I thought it would be easy. What actually happened has changed me forever.

smile1

 

Sunday
6:45 Wakeup with 4-month-old Olivia.  It’s pretty darn easy to smile at a smiling baby. (Which she always is.) This challenge was going to be easy.

7:30 Eddie, my 2-year-old, gets up.  He wakes up one of two ways; whiny or happy.  Today was whiny.  I braced myself for the tears and the shushing that was about to happen for the next hour until he would finally drive dad out of bed with his noisy fits.  But instead of grimacing and sternly whispering, “Stop it, Eddie!” I smiled.  I got down on his level and slowly, calmly and quietly whispered, “It’s ok, bud.  Let mom hug you until you feel better.”  It’s amazing how just the act of smiling changed my entire physical reaction.

 

Eddie and Me

8:51 Everyone is awake and we are busy getting ready for church.  I have smiled and greeted everyone and stopped and listened.  It is amazing how many hugs I have gotten today.  The kids see a smile and they jump on me.  Makes me wonder how they feel when I am not smiling.

10:27  Church starts at 10:30 and Eddie is screaming at my feet because I have asked him to hold my hand as we maneuver the crowds.  I bend down, smiling widely, and just ask him to get up.  He looks at me with what seems to be wonder, gets up, and goes over to hold dad’s hand.  That normally would have ended in me scolding him in the bathroom stall because I was so embarrassed by his very public fit.  I consider it a win.

12:47 We are at Target and Eddie is not in the cart.  He is walking beside us.  He is listening.  The kids are happy.  We get everything on our list and no one has thrown a fit.  I wonder if people are responding to the smiles or is it just a good day?  I don’t think I have ever left Target (when shopping with all five of my kids) with a smile on my face.

Good For the Soulimage credit iheartinspiration.com

2:12 Husband brings me the baby and tell me he wants to do some work outside.  I just smiled.  He stopped.  He looked around.  He gave me a weird look.  “What.  What?  You don’t want me to go outside?  You need me to watch the baby longer?”  I smiled a little bigger. “No, that’s fine!   You do what you need to do.”  He gave me a weird look and walked away.  Clearly I was behaving differently than what he was used too.  This moment was bittersweet;  I was so sad that my husband was used to me not smiling at him, but so happy that now that I knew better, I could do better.

6:14 Sitting down to dinner with family.  The kids start interrupting every chance they get… but I just look at them and smile and ask them to stop.  It feels weird but right.  They actually listen.

9:38 Heading to bed early tonight, it’s been a long weekend.  Give everyone big hugs and snuggles and can actually feel really good about how I treated others today.

WHAT I LEARNED

My family feeds off of me.  They react to my facial expressions, to my physical posture and presence, to my words.  Even better, since I was better able to communicate with the kids, so was my husband. When I was smiling as I communicated, it changed what I would say.  In the split second of choosing to smile, a whole new vocabulary would spring to mind.  I didn’t want to say the negative things.  I wanted my words to match my face.

People react better to smiles.  I know that should be obvious, but it wasn’t to me.  Simply by the fact that I was choosing to smile, I was calmer.  Since I was calmer I was more patient.  Since I was more patient I was better able to handle every situation that I was confronted with.

This smile challenge was a life changer.  I realized that I was least kind to the people I love most.  I was less likely to smile at my beautiful four-year-old daughter than I was a complete stranger.  It takes a split second for me to put that smile on my face, but the results lasted much, much longer.  Our entire day was more relaxed, more efficient, and more joyful. The next day I had to punish my son, and I used my new secret weapon when doing it.  I smiled and calmly explained his punishment.  When his time out was over, he brought me this.

Colton's Art

I have never, ever in my life been given a sweet gift after punishments were given.  After he scrambled off to play with his siblings I sat at my desk and cried like a baby.  It was a powerful raw moment of realization; just how much I needed to physically show my kids how much they mean to me, with something as simple as a smile.  That is the mom I want my kids to know.

SMILE Cake! (surprise inside cake)

As much as I thought I needed to yell and show my kids with anger how much their actions were upsetting to me… I was wrong.  They don’t learn from anger in the sense that I needed them too; they may learn what behaviors they need to avoid to prevent mom’s wrath, but they don’t learn what behaviors they need to be a happy and successful adult.

 

Give Them Yours.

It is amazing how much a smile can change everything.

I put the challenge forth to you.  Take a step beyond your regular routine and extend a smile in a situation where you normally wouldn’t.  Maybe it’s just once that day, maybe it’s the whole day.  But do it.  Experience it for yourself. I promise you won’t be sorry.

 

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Comments

  • Megan {Country Cleaver} says:

    I had a teacher in high school that challenge me to this one time – and he asked me to report in to the class after lunch – to tally how many people I smiled at, and how many smiled back. It was a raging success!! It’s amazing what a smile can do for yourself AND everyone around you. It’s something I need to do more. 🙂 Smile on, love!!

    • Amanda says:

      Sounds like a great teacher! Smiling at you!! 🙂

  • Jessica L. says:

    Oh I love this. I always have time to smile for a stranger, but smiling for those I love always seems so hard. This almost brought tears to my eyes, because you’re right–it’s so easy to change our behavior. (What you wrote about your husband was especially hard for me to read, because my boyfriend reacts the same way when I’m trying extra hard to be pleasant. I must be no fun to be around most days.)

    • Amanda says:

      So glad that something resonated with you Jessica. I hope your day is beyond blessed!

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction says:

    Love this, Amanda! And, I could certainly do better with smiling and being kind. Thanks for the motivation and great reminder 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for stopping by sweet Jen. Kiss that beautiful girl of yours extra big today from me! 🙂

  • Kelli says:

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. Wow. Such a simple thing, so profound. 🙂 I’m in. Glad I started my day with your post.

    • Amanda says:

      You are sweet Kelli. I do hope your day is blessed!!!

  • Sarah says:

    You are a wonderful mother. I learn something from everything you write.

    • Amanda says:

      You are too kind Sarah. 🙂

  • Congratulations Amanda and welcome to what I call “the happiness club”!!! One of the most valuable lessons my grandparents taught me was about happiness. My grandmother was a smiler – she went around with a smile on her face and she always had a kind word for everyone – and an infectious laugh. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that it is not always easy (as you found out) but the benefits are indeed transformational. I will warn you though, it becomes habit forming!! I can’t tell you the number of times people comment on the fact that I’m smiling… and the kicker is I am not consciously aware of it!!!

    • Amanda says:

      Sounds like you have some amazing grandparents! I love this Nancy. Thank you for your sweet welcome into the Happiness Club!!

  • Sue {munchkin munchies} says:

    I LOVE this Amanda! It made me a little teary:)

    • Amanda says:

      Hugs! And smiles. You are beautiful my friend! 🙂

  • bridget {bake at 350} says:

    Beautiful! Really love this post! Who knew that a smile could be so powerful? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Not me! Had to see it to believe it. Love seeing your beautiful smiling face Miss Bridget! Hope your day is full of love and sprinkles! 😉

  • Helena Mouta says:

    Thank you! So, so much! I really needed this! I haven’t smiled nearly as much as I should (or normally would) in the past months (years…) and this really has reminded my how important it is. You’re right, smiling does change the way you react to the world, as well as the way the world reacts to you, and I have known this for a long time, but life has been throwing so many rotten things at me lately I think I just forgot. I’ll try to remember more from now on and I’ll start right now. My husband is working right in front of me and I think he needs a smile just as much as I do. Thank you, again and again, for reminding me to be better!

    • Amanda says:

      I love this Helena. I hope your hubby liked your pearly whites! 🙂

  • Michelle @ My Gluten-free Kitchen says:

    This post really hits me and is making me think. These statements specifically:
    “This moment was bittersweet; I was so sad that my husband was used to me not smiling at him…”
    and this:
    “As much as I thought I needed to yell and show my kids with anger how much their actions were upsetting to me… I was wrong.”
    and this:
    ” I realized that I was least kind to the people I love most.”

    God has really convicted me this morning through this. I’m not showing love to my family like I should be. They are getting grumpy leftover crumbs from me.
    Thanks Amanda for this honest post and challenge. Bless you! Smile!

    • Amanda says:

      Smiling with you sweet Michelle! 🙂

  • Sue - My Cooking Pots says:

    Thank you for this its a wonderful reminder that we need to smile more often. It not only makes the recipient feel better but us too!! I will be trying to smile more and more!!

    • Amanda says:

      So true Sue!!

  • janis says:

    beautiful post – something I am trying to do as well! 🙂 I like to smile but have learned that I am less likely to “use” the power of a smile on those I love the most.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful heart! 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you Janis! Hope you and yours family are well!

  • Rachel Cooks says:

    So inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sally says:

    This is AWESOME. As you know, I am a glass-half-full, power-of-positive-thinking-girl — and I LOVE your experiment. In hindsight, I realize that I was more uptight, and cared more what people thought when our kids were little. It caused me to hold my kids to some ridiculously high standards. But it wasn’t until my daughter started freaking out at me when she did something wrong (an accident) that it hit me. She is ALREADY reacting to how she knows I will respond to this event. And… apparently in the past, I did not react well — because she is already crying thinking I will be angry. It saddened me that she or my son would feel any fear in our relationship. While I have tried always to be mom as opposed to “friend” to my kids, I NEVER want them to FEAR me.

    While you may think this has nothing to do with your experiment, I just wanted to say that I believe what you said is true: our family feeds off of us. I didn’t like the ME I saw reflected in my daughter’s eyes, and I vowed to do better so that she never needed to fear coming to me when she’d made a mistake.

    It’s never too late to change.
    Also Amanda — thanks for always being a positive presence, here on your blog, on FB, on Twitter. Everywhere I “see” you, you are shining your light! {HUGS} ~Sally

    • Amanda says:

      I adore you Sally. 🙂

  • Robin says:

    This is such a good reminder for me right now. I, too, have noticed how much my attitude and my outward presence affects everyone in my family. I can go to work and smile my way through the day, but the minute I get home, I’m sour and unhappy dealing with all the whining, tantrums, cleaning up, etc. I WANT to smile more. So I’m going to take your challenge and do the same. A day full of smiling to remind myself how much it can lift up those around me.

    • Amanda says:

      So excited for you… this challenge can truly change you… in the best way possible! Be blessed my friend!

  • annabelle says:

    I´m taking the challenge, since I have seen lately that my happiness is seen by others. I´ve been separted for 2 years and recently my ex finally signed the divorce papers. Its been two awful years, but the peace I feel now, people are noticing, so I´m taking the challenge and with your permission, I will post it in facebook, so my friends can decide if they want to take up the challenge.
    God Bless
    A.

    • Amanda says:

      Praying with you and for you sweet friend. You are stronger than you know! (and you may post anything you would like!)

  • Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen says:

    Beautiful post, Amanda! I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I smile all the time, so does my sister. We’re just happy people and try to spread joy…even to complete strangers. We are convinced we’re weird (not the norm, for sure). And, we probably are. People probably think we’re crazy, LOL. Thanks for sharing, girl!

    • Amanda says:

      I love that. We need more people like you!

  • Robyn | Add a Pinch says:

    Oh how I love this, Amanda!!! A smile seems so simple, but it sure is amazing the difference a heart felt one makes.

    Love ya!
    Robyn

    • Amanda says:

      Love you too sweety!!

  • Carla says:

    I clicked on you link and read the first part. I went down, smiled and talked to a colleague and I felt better immediately! I’m doing this all day, everyday. A smile can brighten a rather gloomy day,not just yours, but theirs too. Thank you for sharing!

    • Amanda says:

      Yay you!!! Love that you felt better and found more joy!

  • HeatherChristo says:

    This was a beautiful post. You totally inspired me today.

    I always try to think to myself: do I want my kids to know the person that I THINK I AM?
    Or the crazy hag that sometimes rears her ugly head?

    occasionally that reminder works, but your is such a sweet and mindful way of accomplishing that. I have already practiced smiling 4 times this morning thanks to you 🙂

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words sweety. Hope your day is blessed! (and that puppy let you get some rest!)

  • Emily | Jelly Toast says:

    I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. Lately, I have felt myself being cranky and irritable toward my kiddos, and I know it, but couldn’t really seem to find a way to break out of the cycle of bad mood and scolding. I think smiling might very well be the answer. Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiring me to be the best version of me that I can be.

    • Amanda says:

      Smiling with you my friend. 🙂

  • Katy B. says:

    This was incredibly inspirational! Thank you for the (what should already be obvious) idea. I plan on being a lot more smiley going forward 🙂 Starting now!

  • Londa says:

    Love this so much, Amanda! I’ve been challenged to affirm my children more, too! Just a “Good job, I love it when…” No added advice. Just a good job, I’m proud of you. I’m going to add a smile to that too! ☺️

  • amy says:

    I just read your powerful post. If I am being honest, it scares me. (And the fact that it scares me is scary!) Why does it scare me? Do I think I can’t keep it up? Does it sound “too hard”? Am I afriad that if I smile they won’t take me seriously? Don’t I need to be mean sometimes so they really hear me?
    Thank you for starting the conversation by sharing your success.
    By the grace of God…

  • Paula says:

    It’s just so simple, it’s costs you nothing and the payback is priceless.

    (PS I’d rather have wrinkles on my face from smiling too much than frowning too much)

    • Amanda says:

      I like your PS. 🙂

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