What makes you smile?

catIt’s hard to resist smiling when I see this precious wooden kitty holding his sign! His tail is on a spring so it bounces and his whiskers are like wild little coils of wire – and those eyes. Someone at work gave him to me and he brightens up my apartment. (And full disclosure, I love dogs too but you have to admit this kitty is pretty funny.)

I’ve got other things that are either sentimental or offbeat that make me smile too. I keep them in spots that are easy to see and that I pass frequently so that even when I’m not so much in the mood to smile, they can turn things around. Hard to be sad or mad when you have a little feel-good rush and you just smile automatically.

There are people who make me smile too – who can turn a day around just by a sweet and unexpected text or call. A hug is even better if they happen to pop in my office.

Some people know just what to do or say to brighten the day, and they do not hesitate to reach out. Often.

Do I?

Am I so consumed with my own busyness that I forget to reach out to people myself? Do I only reach out when I need something or in response to something, not just to touch base? And because I do it so infrequently, are my interactions forced and unnatural?

As I begin to delve further into my three focus words for the year (read more here) which are NOURISH, PAUSE and PRACTICE, I realize that connecting with and reaching out to people is a part of all three. It’s so important for me to connect and not to become so focused on “doing” that I neglect “being,” and to explore ways to make others smile, which in turn makes me do the same.

Nourishing relationships makes my life more fulfilling because who truly wants to be a loner? I know there are times when I enjoy being alone, but my best times are shared with family and friends. Learning comes from bouncing ideas off each other and connecting makes me honestly happy, even if we have to do it online instead of in person.

I often think of pause as a lack of action, but it can also mean a switch – pausing the busyness in order to reach out to someone. Pausing work in order to relax in good company.

Practice is probably the most important of the actions because it will drive more frequent contact with those who are most important to me. By practicing the art of reaching out, I will get better, and it will come more naturally. Instead of having to think hard about it and set up reminders, practice will help me just build it into my day and week, and before long, it will be second nature. I’ll miss NOT connecting regularly.

I love the idea of becoming more outward focused and seeking opportunities to reach out to others and smile more often. I’ve got a little grin just thinking about it.

Who and what makes you smile?