I’ve heard it said that the eyes are the window to the soul. And, I believe—and have experienced—that making eye contact with a stranger or friend creates an instant connection.

Lately I’ve been hearing more about disconnecting from technology to connect with ourselves. I also like to think of disconnecting from technology to connect with people in our own communities.
Look up from your phones and into someone’s heart. Make eye contact and smile. You will be amazed of the instant feeling of connectedness.

Why You Should Smile at Strangers

In a May 25, 2012 article in Live Science, “Why You Should Smile at Strangers,” contributor Stephanie Pappas writes, “People who have been acknowledged by a stranger feel more connected to others immediately after the experience than people who have been deliberately ignored, according to study reported here today (May 24) at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Motivation.”

Maybe you already do this but just in case you don’t, I implore you to try this…next time you’re out and about, whether at the store or at the gym, make a point of looking up and making eye contact with the people you see. Smile and say, “Hello.” Make a mental note of the reaction or response you get from them. Nine times out of 10 when I do this, I see an instant smile come across the other person’s face. Their response seems to say, “Hey, thanks for seeing me.”
Also take note of how you feel when you smile. I feel instant joy when I smile. And, it seems that the moment I smile at someone else, I feel I am sharing a gift with them. Too often in today’s society we keep our heads down (into our phones) or even look past people as we rush to where we absolutely positively have to be.

As the Positive Psychology People’s own Lesley Lyle says in her book, Laugh Your Way to Happiness, “If someone smiles at you, the chances are that you will smile back. This is the effect of mirror neurons in our brain that cause us to mimic the emotions that we see in others.”

If making eye contact and smiling at everyone you see sounds uncomfortable for you, how about trying a more manageable goal for starters? For example, start by smiling at just three people from the front door of the gym to the door of your workout class.

Here’s what will happen when you smile at someone else

  1. You’ll feel better and you’ll relieve stress. Your body immediately releases endorphins when you smile, even when you force it. This sudden change in mood will help you feel better and release stress. Smiling has been shown to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, increase health and mood enhancing hormones such as endorphins, and lower blood pressure.
  2. Your smile may be contagious. (Something others will want to catch)
    From the April 2, 2014 article “What’s the science behind a smile,” on BritishCouncil.org/Voices-Magazine: “A Swedish study found that it is indeed difficult to keep a long face when you look at people who are smiling at you. Smiling is just contagious! Seeing people smile stimulates our mirror neurons to suppress our facial muscle control, and trigger a smile. ‘You smile, I smile’ is actually a scientific fact!”
  3. You’ll make others feel good. Who knows, maybe you are the bright spot in their otherwise gloomy day
  4. You’ll create a connection and maybe have a laugh with another person
  5. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the start of a friendship or an exercise partnership

From the white paper in the Universal Journal of Educational Research (Copyright©2016), “Social Connectedness and Flourishing: The Mediating Role of Hopelessness,” Bahtiyar Eraslan-Capan of the Department of Psychological Counseling and Guidance, Anadolu University, Turkey found that, “People who have a high sense of connectedness feel themselves belonging to a family, friends or a social group and they define themselves as warm and positive. These people also have a high level of self-esteem, self-worth, purpose and meaning in life since they receive social support and social acceptance from a close environment.”

“Every time you smile at someone, it’s an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Peace begins with a smile.” ~Mother Teresa

Smile and connect with someone today. You will be happy you did.

About the author: Julie Ostrow is the First-Ever American Laughing Champion and Humor, Laughter, and Improv Coach. She coaches groups and corporations how to use humor, laughter, and improv techniques to improve communication, connection, and creativity. www.GoFindTheFunny.com


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