Sunday May 17th 2015. Smilinggg was born.
The day started in familiar fashion. I laced up my trainers ready to trot off on my Sunday morning run before the heat of the Vietnam sun became unbearable. I’d been feeling pretty miserable on and off for a number of months. I was struggling with a major challenge in my life, plus being at a cross roads with my work. I felt as though I lacked direction and clarity. Most days were spent in isolation at home. I felt lonely, confused and without purpose.
I found comfort in my running. I could lose myself in my runs. My marathon training gave me a sense of purpose and I felt fulfilled. My best day of the week was always Sunday. It coincided with my longest run of the week. Good old runners high. That wonderful state of euphoria.
The Pursuit of Happiness
A few months prior I had been listening to Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast in an attempt to sprinkle some joy into my life. I had also researched ways to increase happiness, the power of habits and in depth reading on mindset. The frequently mentioned happiness trends were the practice of expressing daily gratitude, exercise, helping others, meditation and giving warm smiles and hello’s.
With an equal balance of success and failure I tried to incorporate these happiness practices into my day. The inconsistencies further frustrated me.
The Land of Smiles
Running is when I’m at my most creative. Stress, frustration and worries simply melt away allowing my mind to wander. I’ve since become a firm believer that desperation leads to inspiration and my reflective runners mind has supported this notion.
Whilst running, I frequently reflected on my year spent in Phuket, Thailand. I taught 7 and 8-year old children English at a government school. The happiness and all round contentment of both the adults and children of Thailand were the thoughts I was continually drawn to.
I noticed these similarities with the Vietnamese too, the people I could call my neighbours. Their authentic and warming smiles radiated happiness.
I frequently experienced a scattered brain whilst out running, thoughts all over the place. As I clocked more miles, I felt as though my scattered brain was slowly but surely piecing things together. Something was forming. At the time I didn’t know what, but I felt a sense of hope.
My elevated mood on a Sunday would usually revert back to a less positive state by Monday. It became a self-fulfilled prophecy. One Monday morning in early May I decided to put a stop to it. I made the decision to walk a short circuit surrounding my house.
I made an intentional effort to smile warmly at passers by and to greet them with a Hello or Xin chào. I focused on deep nasal breathing whilst giving thanks to the experiences, people and abundance that existed within my life.
I returned home twenty minutes later and felt a real lift in mood, one not too dissimilar to the runners high I would frequently experience on a Sunday.
Without realising at the time I was Smilinggg.
I repeated the Smilinggg practice frequently, on most days, offering warm smiles to Vietnamese natives which were warmly received and returned. The same couldn’t always be said of my interactions with fellow foreigners, those from Westernised countries. This at first frustrated me but in time I mindfully remembered I only had control of my actions, not the actions of others, this certainly helped cool the flames.
Making a Difference
The more I expressed gratitude, the less I thought about my own problems. My focus was shifting. I also considered all the problems and battles faced by people around the world and how fortunate I really was.
My awareness of others increased which lead to an even greater sense of compassion. Witnessing war victims who were blind, limbless, and suffering from other severe disabilities, yet still possessing a positive outlook on life. They inspired me.
My one goal in life is to try and make a difference, to inspire healthy change and support those who wish to improve their lives in absolutely any way possible. Even during my personal struggles, this desire never left me. In fact it has only grown. I continued to try my best to help others via my Health Wellness Habits and James Cooper Facebook pages, yet at the same time I felt as though I had far more to give. I just didn’t quite know how.
A Plethora of Emotions
The moment it clicked I choked. An overwhelming sense of emotion rushed over me as I pieced the puzzle together. It wasn’t an instant light bulb moment, more a series of flickers.
My Sunday long runs tended to be explorative. I would run wherever my heart desired, solely relying on the RunKeeper app to prevent me from losing my way. For some reason on this day, I opted to repeat the same circuit I had previously been walking.
Out of curiosity, on completion of my first lap I glanced at my iPhone screen and noticed I had clocked a little over 1 mile. The exact same moment I ran past a family enjoying a Sunday morning stroll. The smiles and love that radiated from the father, mother, daughter and son touched me deeply. It lit me up inside as I exchanged warm smiles and friendly hello’s.
With each passing lap, more creative flickers, until the light stayed on.
Tears formed as I desperately tried to regulate my breathing to ensure I was able to complete the final 20-minutes of my 80-minute run. My focus shifted from my aching limbs to my iPhone, pulling the device from the armband to jot down my thoughts and ideas in fear I’d forget.
Everything began to make sense. Complete an utter clarity.
I had figured a way to incorporate the frequently mentioned happiness trends into a simple yet effective bundle. One which could provide the keystone habit for further progression.
A Star was Born
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
As I cooled down and wrote the original Facebook post, I didn’t have all the answers. One month on and writing this, I still don’t. One thing I do know is how powerful the Smilinggg protocol has been for me and can be for others experiencing personal difficulty in their lives.
The last few months have been some of the hardest in my life. I’ve felt lost, trapped, worthless, purposeless and miserable.
The Smilinggg daily practice offers hope, provides purpose, direction and a simplified structured health and wellbeing solution to improve our health and happiness.
The Next Step…
You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
The above post was written over 20 months ago.
It’s nice to reflect and re-read what I had previously written. The next step for me is to continue to share the Smilinggg daily practice and to help as many people as possible by obtaining as much awareness and exposure as possible.
Right now I’m enjoying the Smilinggg journey and hope it can help others as much as it helped me through a particularly difficult time in my life not so long ago. The practice and particularly the Smilinggg philosophy continues to help me every single day.
I’m excited for what is around the corner for Smilinggg.
The Original Facebook Post:
A Star Was Born: Original Instagram Post