The "Wave and Smile" Experiment

The "Wave and Smile" Experiment

I consider myself a relatively happy person. As a life coach and psychotherapist I have made it my mission to promote happiness as much as possible with my clients. You may have seen some of my previous articles on the happiness factor and the three things that promote happiness which include staying in the moment – gratitude – and reframing. I am always amazed the clients finest so much happiness in following this simple formula. Go to and look up the May 2009 issue for more info.

Currently I am participating in a happiness course presented by Shawn Achor through He is a researcher from Harvard who has made it his mission to find the most successful practices that promote happiness. I actually look for opportunities to increase my "happiness quotient" because I know that happiness is a choice and I want reminders to utilize my attitude to think this way. As I was learning more about the research, Shawn had learned about a very interesting experiment called the "wave and smile experiment."  He found that cities that had a high rate of violence and crime benefited from policeman who showed up in their neighborhoods and simply smiled and waved at everyone they met. Initially the police said that the community seemed fairly suspicious of their motives but quickly appreciated the smile and wave activity that occurred between them and the police. It was noted that crime and violence went down in any community that practiced this simple interaction.

So Shawn invited us in the course to do the same.
And even though I normally do as I walk in my neighborhood, I am going to make an effort to do it places like airports, shopping malls, and less familiar areas. I have always known that it is the right thing to do but now there is research to substantiate that it truly does work.
I would challenge you to do the same… As Shawn encouraged us in the course, spend one second twice a day smiling at someone or waving to them. Since habits take about 21 days to reinforce, practice it for 21 days and see if you don't start noticing that people smile when they notice you and that you truly are making a difference in the life of others.

Happiness is a choice. No matter what is going on in our lives and no matter what we are dealing with personally, we get to decide to create happiness within ourselves and wherever we go. That is a principle that we can live by each and every day. No matter what you might be struggling with or what you might be dealing with in terms of depression, anxiety, or anger, we know that if you do practice compassion with other people even though you don't feel like you have the energy… It will pay dividends into your emotional well-being and mental health.

You really do have the capacity to change up your life, to practice happiness, and to feel better about anything that may be troubling you. Why not try the "wave and smile" experiment and see how it changes your life.

Try these books to further your journey of raising your happiness factor:
Happiness Advantage the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology To Feel Success by Shawn Achor

Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Happiness Is A Choice by Barry Neal Kaufman

Happiness For No Reason by Marcy Shimroff