Smile at the world, just smile.

Ever feel just entirely drained? Well as a student at a competitive university I definitely do.  I am a bit older than most people at my Universty, and a transfer student so it is a little hard to make friends. For myself, this was shocking. I am an extremely social butterfly. What I have noticed is a lot of other people are not social, not interested in meeting new people, or exceptionally friendly. Now as someone studying psychology, I can understand some of the basic reasons for these social experiences. In our society, most people, tend to want to avoid social interactions with people they don’t know for a variety of reasons. Mostly it is because they are preoccupied with what they have to do, school work, etc. Although, something I have noticed is that people are very uncomfortable with eye contact with a stranger, let alone smiling at one. I have smiled randomly at passersby several times and a lot of the times they stare blankly or look away. I wonder why? In times of so much discomfort, instability, and insecurity why would an act of kindness add to one’s discomfort?

Now as someone studying psychology, I can understand some of the basic reasons for these social experiences. In our society, most people, tend to want to avoid social interactions with people they don’t know for a variety of reasons. Mostly it is because they are preoccupied with what they have to do, school work, etc. Although, something I have noticed is that people are very uncomfortable with eye contact with a stranger, let alone smiling at one. I have smiled randomly at passersby several times and a lot of the times they stare blankly or look away. I wonder why? In times of so much discomfort, instability, and insecurity why would an act of kindness add to one’s discomfort?

In our society, most people, tend to want to avoid social interactions with people they don’t know for a variety of reasons. Mostly it is because they are preoccupied with what they have to do, school work, etc. Although, something I have noticed is that people are very uncomfortable with eye contact with a stranger, let alone smiling at one. I have smiled randomly at passersby several times and a lot of times they stare blankly or look away. I wonder why? In times of so much discomfort, instability, and insecurity why would an act of kindness add to one’s discomfort

As someone who has suffered from depression and still struggles day to day, any act of genuine kindness towards me is something I not only appreciate but am grateful for. So, almost anytime I make eye contact with a stranger, I  make it a point to smile back. Sometimes I am met graciously with a reciprocatory smile. I don’t know about anyone else out there who has this same feeling, but I try to envision a world that was continuously met with welcoming smiles. What kind of a world would that be? Perhaps one that is not so lonely? Or one that is at least optimistic and friendly. To explore this phenomenon of social discomfort I will continue to smile at everyone I make eye contact with, regardless of their response. I hope anyone reading this will too. As the saying goes, “Everyone you have ever met is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.”

This is where I add in my little anime anecdotes. If you have ever watched my hero academia or Boko no Hero than you might be familiar with All Might the hero who is the universal Symbol for peace. When asked by his young admirer how he can smile so much in the face of danger he replies “I will save people with a smile, the symbol of peace cannot be daunted by evil. I smile to show the pressure of heroes and to trick the fear inside of me.” Whether or not you are into anime, psychology, or gratitude All Might has a point. It is in each and every one of us to make a difference, or even the slightest Continue reading “Smile at the world, just smile.”

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Gratitude Letter (one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself or others)

This is a Positive Psychology Intervention credited to Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson.

Their premise is that American society seems to lack gratitude rituals. The instructions are simple: think of someone who has made a personal impact on your life, who have been extremely kind for which you have never really expressed formal gratitude.

The point to write a letter to express in specific detail as to why you are grateful to this person. You can either deliver the letter in person or email. The results dictate that not only is the recipient grateful, but the composer is, in turn, grateful as well. So, I set about to do just that. I wrote to a person that showed me true friendship, and acceptance despite meeting briefly. The result, a lifelong friendship that I believe will last the test of time.I always tell my friend I am grateful for our friendship, but I don’t think he readily accepts that information. He does not intentionally disregard my words, but it is also an aspect of cultural difference. My friend was raised by Chinese 1st-year immigrant parents, who were extremely hard on him, and critical of his achievements. Thus, George is incredibly self-critical. Despite, the fact that he graduated from an academically established difficult institution as a STEM major. A reality that I cannot personally fathom, in fact, I would equate being a STEM major, to the equivalent of a living hell. However, he is intelligent, talented, and gifted. Unfortunately, he has a difficult time perceiving those positive aspects of himself.

I always tell my friend I am grateful for our friendship, but I don’t think he readily accepts that information.

Thus, I think my articulation of the amount of my gratitude and admiration to him as a friend will be more readily received. I planned to deliver it to him and let him keep it so he can be continuously be reminded of the outstanding person that he is. Intentionally taking the time to actively sit, and articulate all the ways, my friend significantly helped me as a friend, and all the reasons I am grateful to have him as a friend, made me feel increasingly appreciative of our relationship. Writing the letter of gratitude, created a warm feeling. The sensation seemed to flow through my body, through my hands, and into the very words I was writing. The experience makes me curious as to why I had not done this before. Why is expressed gratitude not a regular practice in our society? An immeasurable amount of people deserves a letter of gratitude, regardless of whether they asked for one or not. Expressing gratitude should be a regular proactive portion in the lives of all people if it is not already. The Gratitude Letter exercise simply helps cultivates those experiences, and further, broaden these conceptualizations about one’s interpersonal relationships. The results this exercise could have on our society if applied regularly are immeasurable.

People may not express gratitude regularly because acts of kindness between people are generally expected. Just as those in life are generally happy. Many people are unaware that such pleasant experiences of interpersonal relationships, deserve acknowledgment because they are perceived as natural aspects of interpersonal relationships, so they go unnoticed.

I strongly suggest you try this exercise. It could be a friend, teacher, lover, etc.

I would include the letter in its entirety. However, I am unsure anyone of you would wish to read the full length of the letter. So, I will include my friend’s reaction.

“Wow I don’t know what to say, Gaby, thank you!!!”

“I am really glad for this, really. Also, thanks for the letter. On my first opportunity, I am going to frame this.”

His words brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was reveling in his words of thanks, but because it had brought him joy.

So once again I encourage you to try this exercise of gratitude. If the results are less than satisfactory, please let me know. If the results exceed your expectations, please let me know as well!

Warmly,

Wabi-Sabi wit Gaby