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When I was in Spain last month, the thing I missed most was probably not what you think it was.

It wasn’t the food (although I did miss it, just not the most).
It wasn’t the weather.
And it wasn’t my cats (although I loved seeing them again when I returned.)

Truthfully, I missed the smiles and friendly hellos that strangers on the streets of the United States often give each other, regularly several times a day.

At least here in California (and the west coast), smiling at strangers and saying hello to each other (even though we don’t know each other) is a big part of our culture. 👏

I know it seems strange to us North American folks, but in Spain and in many parts of Europe and in the world, it’s just not part of the culture to show any kind of smile to strangers or say any kind of hello. 😳

In Spain, my husband and I had a conversation about this and realized that close family and friendship circles and connections are big in Europe.

In fact, while we were touring the tile company Porcelanosa’s factory, it was shared with us how important the 90 minute to two hour lunch break is for their 5,000 employees who return home during that time to spend it with family.

And therefore, it seemed reasonable to assume that Europeans are not rude people at all. They are simply respectful and probably think it’s really weird to engage with a stranger. If you have any insider info on this, please send me a note here.

Well… whatever the reason, I can honestly say I missed seeing friendly smiling faces on the streets, saying hi to me. This feels like a gift in our culture and it’s something I’m now including in my daily gratitude practice now that I’m back home.

Speaking of smiles, there’s actual science behind smiling and seeing people smile and improving mood:

As reported in Psychology Today, “A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded.”

I call that a dopamine hit. 💖

And it’s something I talk a lot about in the design of your offices and healthcare spaces.

For example, seeing smiling faces depicted in your artwork hung on the walls of your waiting rooms, exam and treatment rooms, staff break rooms and bathrooms often have that same effect.

So, if you’re a dentist, consider hanging lifestyle art on the walls of your waiting room office, bathrooms and treatments rooms that depict people smiling and laughing. It’s a great way to show off a beautiful smile that makes your patients remember you and your wonderful work on their own smile.

And if you’re an acupuncturist, chiropractor, psychologist, medical doctor or body worker, for example, by showing images on your walls of happy smiling men, women and children walking in parks, holding hands, enjoying a sunset, bike riding and… smiling while their doing it, you are both uplifting the moods of your patients in pain and offering hope in an otherwise dismal situation of someone worrying about if they are ever going to feel healthy again.

Artwork is a super important element of your decor, as you know, because I talk a lot about it here, on my podcast and in my books.

And smiling faces is an essential component of elevating mood and keeping your peeps hopeful.

In Spain, it was actually hard for me not to smile and not to say hello to the zillions of tourists I came across from various parts of Europe.

Instead I resigned myself to saying a big hello and good day to every person who worked at the hotels with, “Hola, Buenos Dias” and my good friends at Porcelanosa.

This, at least temporarily, satisfied my dopamine hit for the day.

So tell me, have you ever had the experience where a smile just made your day?

Yours in big smiles,