There's one thing I love about tube travel in London. It's the moment commuters (usually trying their best to avoid eye contact at all times) share a smile. It's a genuine smile - prompted by an energetic tube commentator or a shared disbelief over commuter behaviour. And, in that moment, strangers, united by a simple, yet all-to-often-underused facial expression become a little bit more human.
Smiling is under-rated. Just ask Ron Gutman. He's spent years researching and writing about the the science of smiling and his TED talk on the subject has been seen by millions of people across the world. What he's found is, in part common sense and, more excitingly, in part more surprising than you could have imagined.
Here are 7 of my favourite insights.
1) Smiling can make us feel better: don't make it simply a reaction to feeling good. Make it the reason you feel good.
2) Smile first thing in the morning and you will feel happier: what mind can argue with a person who greets each day with a smile? There's science behind it too. Darwin has the answers.
3) Smiles are transferable: we smile. We look and feel good. Others smile back. They look and feel good. Everyone's a winner. We can't pass on the sunshine, but smiles are the next best thing.
4) Smiling may be universal, but not so the action: Just look at the Japanese smiley emoticon and the leading role played by the eyes.
5) Children are smile millionaires: a British research study has shown that it takes up to £16,000 to generate the same stimulation as one smile. If children smile more than 400 times a day on average, we have pretty wealthy children in this world of ours. (It's also worth noting that one smile gives as much joy as 2,000 chocolate bars. All the fun - and none of the calories.
6) Smiling can make you better at business: genuine smiles only, of course, but people are more likely to listen and engage it you deliver service with a smile. I should give it a go in my next pitch.
7) For times when you don't feel like smiling, you need a smiling list: lover of lists that I am, this is my favourite bit. Ron's smiling list, which is designed to remind him of things that raise a smile, includes flowers, trees and art. These triggers are a gentle nudges that suggest there is always something to smile about. Ron has a list of ten. I say make it as long as you need to do the job (beating in mind less is often more). Alliums and the smell of fresh laundry (not the act of doing it) would be up there for me.
I won't spoil his anecdotes, but it is definitely a book worth smiling about.
I shall leave you with a quote that Ron credits to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch about the importance of smiles: 'It is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Given them one if yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give."
So make today the day you start gifting smiles to the world (just maybe don't test out the chocolate theory).
It's a small change that could have a huge impact on your life.