Sara Salo, MPH

Health through

My #1 tip for life

S – M – I – L – E


Seriously. It makes everything better.

I first came across this strategy while pedaling across the country on my 5,000-mile solo School Food Tour. It was a fantastic and successful journey, and yet there were innumerable miserable moments. Like that time I rode through a field of thorns on mile 85 of a 100 mile day. Or those days when the headwind made each pedal stroke feel as though my feet were moving through Jello. Or that frantic 30 seconds I spent fleeing from a very, very angry dog in rural Alabama. Those times? They sucked.

At the beginning of the Tour I would become frustrated when setbacks such as those occurred, when I didn’t reach my mileage goal or my GPS steered me off course. However I soon realized that these emotions were a waste of very valuable energy; energy I needed to pedal my butt all the way across the country. I wasn’t even going to make it through California if I didn’t mellow out. So I took a lesson from a friendly, slightly overbearing hippie-turned borderline evangelical christian who I met along the Pacific Coast in Fort Bragg. He was just happy.

So I tried it out. It was a cold, dewy morning when I rolled south from Fort Bragg on Highway 1. Chilled and wet bicyclists are generally not happy people. But I grinned. And beared it. And after a few minutes I had forgotten about my discomfort! Instead I was appreciating the scenery with a smile on my face. After this, I used the smile trick quick frequently. That mega hill on the way to Joshua Tree National Park? No big deal, when I had a smile on my face. The crazy sidewind in New Mexico? Rode right through it grinning. That extra 20 miles at the end of a long day? Bam. Done and done, with a smile.

So my #1 tip for life is this: even if you don’t feel like it, even if it’s the last thing you want to do at any given moment, SMILE. What begins as a forced movement of your mouth soon transforms into a genuine feeling of happiness and gratitude. Promise me, you’ll try it just once. It will change your world. 🙂


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