I recently spent a sunny Saturday afternoon walking in the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. For anyone who hasn’t been there before, it is a beautiful place for a quiet stroll and a wander amongst a vast selection of flowers, plants, and greenery. And if, like me, your walk is not quite complete without tea and a bun, there is a plentiful café there too!
As I was walking, I came across this verse carved into a stone wall lining one of the many beautiful walk-ways, almost hidden amongst the trees and plants surrounding it;
‘A Friendly Word,
A Kindly Smile,
A Helpful Act,
And Life’s Worthwhile.’
The simplicity and wisdom of this little phrase paused me as I almost walked by, half reading it. This simple phrase reminded me that small but powerful acts can have a positive impact on our daily lives, and on our sense of wellbeing.
A Friendly Word
A thought struck me recently that one of the things many of us lost during covid when keeping our distance, was often the simple joy of engaging with people we haven’t met before. Be it a nod as we pass, a friendly ‘good morning’, or perhaps a longer chat with someone new.
I noticed how much I enjoyed having a friendly chat with a passer-by while I was unloading my messages at my front door this week. It was just a short chat, as we shared a laugh about the joys of unloading the shopping, but I noticed afterwards that I was still smiling. I realised how much I had missed feeling able to have these kinds of spontaneous chats, during the time when keeping a safe distance felt more like the priority.
Noticing the feeling of positivity I felt after this short interaction, I found myself reflecting on how important a friendly word can be for our wellbeing, and also for the wellbeing of others. It can help to lift our mood, remind us that we are not alone, and help to bring some positivity into our day.
A Kindly Smile
It occurs to me as I write this, that a friendly word and a kindly smile are often not too far apart. However, even on its own, a kindly smile can do wonders for our wellbeing. Any of us who have experienced a jovial smile from a passer-by, someone in a shop, or down the pub, knows the boost it can give us.
Research tells us that many of our emotions can feel contagious, and that just as seeing fear on someone’s face can trigger our own concerns , a smile can have an equally positive impact. As babies, we can learn a lot by observing and imitating what we see, and so often we respond to the facial signals we see around us. Who amongst us hasn’t, when meeting a friend’s new born for the first (or fiftieth time), broken into a smile, and have that smile returned to us?
As adults this too can have an equally positive effect, and may, if done politely, illicit a smile in return. The next time you catch someone’s eye on the street or in a shop, take a moment to notice how it feels to give or a receive an unexpected smile. It can help to lift our spirits, and relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
A Helpful Act
Helpful acts can come in small packages, and like offering a friendly word or a kindly smile, don’t have to be big to make a big difference.
As I was unloading my shopping at the door, I felt very grateful to the person who had left the crates in small stacks, a helpful act to me, as someone who is not the tallest in the world! The fact that the driver knew this and left them so I could unload them easily, was an example of the kindness of strangers that many of us might have experienced over the last couple of years.
It occurred to me that taking time to offer help where we can, and also to appreciate the little acts of help we receive, can support us to feel connected to others around us, and help to lighten our load.
A final thought…
I have heard lots of people over recent weeks and months saying that if there was anything good to come out of a challenging time, it was the little acts of help and kindness they received that got them through. I have also heard people say they hope to be able to hold onto these, even as the world picks up its pace again. Perhaps keeping a phrase like this one in mind can help us to remember that it is often the simple acts that can remind us that ‘Life’s Worthwhile.’
This post featured as a Monthly Wellbeing Series article in The Midland Tribune on 27th July 2022