Smile at others and keep the world smiling.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

This statement by the Dalia Lama is a no-brainer to me. Over a decade ago, I was taking a mental health course intended to improve social skills. One of the exercises was to spend an entire day smiling at every person you encountered for one day. For someone who has agoraphobia, this was no easy task. This assignment required me to go out into the world. If this weren’t bad enough, I had to interact with the general population coexisting in my general vicinity. It goes to reason that I was terrified and skeptical. People were going to think I was crazy. I was grateful that I was not living in New York, where people think you are crazy if you smile at them for no apparent reason. I wanted to improve my people skills, so I went along with this little experiment and set off into the world.

As I went about my errands in the grocery store, I started smiling at each person I passed. To my amazement, people were smiling back at me. Most of the people anyway. When I smiled at someone, they tended to say hello or ask how I was doing. As people smiled back at me, I realized that my anxiety and stress levels were declining, and my confidence started to build. Amazing how sending out good vibes and receiving them in return can turn into a healing experience. My mood improved, and I was less depressed. But as time passed, I succumbed to my mental disorders. The lessons I learned in the people skills course faded considerably. I reverted to my reclusive tendencies, and to this day, I struggle to feel safe in public. This card by the Dalia Lama serves to remind me that I can ease my discomfort in public by simply smiling at strangers. They are less intimidating that way. So smile, and the world will smile with you.