33 Small Ways to Make People Smile Throughout Your Day

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Let’s be honest… we live in a world where people often tell one another they are “too busy”. 

Too busy to stop and smell the roses.

Too busy to help a friend in need.

Too busy to spend that extra time with their families and friends.

Too busy to show kindness to a stranger.

I know that I’ve been guilty of uttering these words from time to time… haven’t you?

That feeling of “burning the candle at both ends” can not only prove to be detrimental for you, emotionally and physically… but can have a domino effect on others’ mindsets. 

Think about it.

If you tell someone you are too busy, how might they feel?

Maybe hurt? Maybe dismissed or disappointed? Unappreciated?

Whether you uttered the words or not, chances are a person has heard them from someone recently… which is why we should try our best to make someone smile as often as possible.

Figuring out how to make people smile doesn’t always have to involve a grand gesture. It can be the smallest, most seemingly insignificant thing and still get the job done. 

And it’s an important job.

You never know what is going on in someone’s world… and your unexpected gesture or kind words may be just what they need to turn their day around!

After all, wouldn’t you like it if someone did that for you?

In this article, I’m going to offer 33 ideas for how to make people smile. Hopefully they will inspire you to act on them… or even come up with some of your own.

What You Will Learn

1. Offer a stranger a compliment.

Few things make people smile more than a genuine compliment they never expected to hear. And if that compliment is coming for a stranger, it feels even more special. It’s never forced when someone you don’t know says, “I like your tie” or “you have a great laugh”. A stranger has nothing to gain by lying to another person when it comes to being complimentary.

2. Send someone flowers for no reason.

Everyone loves getting flowers. It’s cliche, but true. 

And, yes, that includes men.

Sending someone flowers “just because”, whether anonymously or not, can brighten their day… and the room!  

3. Pay for another person’s food order.

My husband and I have been on the receiving end of this.

We were celebrating our anniversary at a fancy restaurant and an older couple at the table next to us overheard us talking. At the end of our meal, the waiter came over to us and said that the couple took care of our bill. Only writing, “happy anniversary” by the total amount due.

We thanked the couple profusely and all they asked was that we pay it forward.

My husband and I spend the entire night smiling at strangers and looking for the perfect situation to do just that.      

4. Send a postcard to an old friend.

Sure, social media is a great tool for connecting with old friends… but it can also be so impersonal.

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Mail your friends a birthday card on their special day, instead of wishing them well on a post. 

Likes. Cares. Sad faces.

Instead of clicking an emoji button or writing a short blurb… let them know you’re thinking about them by mailing an actual handwritten postcard. That or mail them a birthday card on their special day, instead of wishing them well on a post.  

5. Call, not text, your parents to check in.

No matter how old we are, most of us feel obligated to check in with our parents from time to time.

Whether you reach out daily or weekly, texting back and forth is fine… but letting them hear your voice over the phone once in a while is a sure fire way to make them feel appreciated and loved.

6. Tell your significant other you love them every time they leave the house.

Life is short. And you never know when saying, “I love you” to your partner may be the last time you do.

It’s sad, but fact.

That is why it is important to say it often.

Telling them you love them, even when they are just running out to grab milk, is a guaranteed way to make them smile… not to mention, be extra careful. 

7. Offer a cold drink to your lawn crew on a hot day.

Every occupation serves a purpose. And just because some professions are more revered than others, doesn’t make them any more or less significant to the people that benefit from them.

Offering your landscapers a cold beverage (or ice cream!) on a hot day will put smiles on their faces, and yours, guaranteed!

8. Cook a meal for a sick friend and bring it to their house.

If we are lucky, we all have that one friend who is always there for us. The one who never says they are too busy to help out or lend an ear… and who never asks for anything in return for their kindness.

The next time they aren’t feeling well, or have been working late hours, surprise them with a homemade meal. It’s one less thing they have to worry about… and one thing guaranteed to put a smile on their face.

9. Ask a stranger to dance if they are sitting alone.

We’ve all been out with friends at a bar, or maybe even a guest at a wedding, and spotted that one person sitting alone in a corner watching other people dance.

Asking them to dance with you will surely brighten their day… and put a little spring in your step as well.

10. Tip the grocery store clerk who loads up your car.

Now more than ever, curbside delivery and carside grocery shopping is incredibly popular. Being able to place an order on your phone and simply pull into a spot to wait for someone to bring it to you is a huge time saver… not to mention a way to avoid crowds.

Just remember that the person bringing that order to your car isn’t getting tipped or paid extra for doing it.  So the next time they do, thank them for helping and offer them a tip. The appreciation will help validate their job and put a smile on their face in the process.

11. Say “thank you” to active and retired military.

Regardless of how you feel about war, the people who serve or did serve our country, are the ones keeping us safe.  And they  are the reason we have many of the privileges that we do in this country.

Saying “thank you” to these people when you see them will remind them, and you, of that. 

12. Leave a holiday gift for your postal delivery person, garbage and recycling collectors each year.

Most of us rarely come in contact with the people who deliver our mail, collect our garbage and take our recycling. We are either at work or just too busy to chat with them… or even wave hello.

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If you’re looking for an easy way how to make people smile, leave a holiday gift for your postal delivery person, garbage and recycling collectors each year.

If you’re looking for an easy way how to make people smile, think of these folks the next time the holiday season rolls around. A gift card, fruit basket or a case of beer can work wonders for their holiday spirit. 

13. Leave flowers or chocolates for your cleaning person.

Yes, your cleaning person’s job is to keep your house neat… giving you one less thing to worry about. Still, that doesn’t mean they have to do it with special care or even particularly well.

You are also trusting them in your house with your belongings. In fact, many cleaning people are considered to be like members of the family that you rarely see… but know you can trust.

That is why it’s important to let them know you appreciate their loyalty and honesty from time to time with a random gesture. Flowers, chocolates, a gift certificate or a bottle of wine is a great way to make them smile… and also validate their life apart from yours.   

14. Put a positive sticky note in your child’s lunch.

If you pack your child’s lunch, there is no easier way to let them know you love them or are thinking about them, then with a note. Maybe they are worried about a test or have been having trouble with a bully? Letting them know you are there, even when you aren’t able to be, can work wonders.

15. Surprise your partner or child with their favorite meal on a random day.

If you’re like my family, we typically cook or order our favorite meals on each other’s birthdays. That or on special occasions, such as good report cards.

But who says you can’t cook them their favorite meal “just because”? Surprising them with what they crave is a delicious way to put a smile on anyone’s face.

16. Celebrate your partner or child’s half birthday with their favorite dessert.

Birthdays only come once a year… but wouldn’t it be nice if we got to celebrate twice?

Celebrating a half birthday with your spouse or child’s favorite dessert is a fun way to let them know how much better your world is with them in it!

17. Give up your seat on public transportation to someone else.

When it comes to how to make people smile, the expression “chivalry isn’t dead after all” comes to my mind.

Giving up your seat to another person on the bus or train doesn’t disappoint, as it almost always results in a return smile and a “thank you”. 

18. Send an anonymous food basket to a family who is struggling.

Maybe your neighbor recently lost their job… or you read about a family on Facebook who lost everything in a house fire.

Sending an anonymous food basket is a selfless and wonderful way to make them smile, while helping their family out at the same time. 

19. Hold a door open for someone else.

Yes, we need to catch our subway or are running late for work… it happens. But I can assure you that adding an extra 10 seconds to that in order to hold a door for someone else won’t make a big difference to how late you are, however it will likely make a big difference to them. 

20. Treat your co-workers to breakfast one morning.

Many of us share a bond with our co-workers. Whether we are good friends or not, we all show up every day and have a level of respect for each other.

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Treating your co-workers breakfast one morning is a nice way of letting them know you are in this together and will surely result in smiles.  

Maybe you bond over the demanding boss, or lack of customer and client appreciation. Maybe you’re stressed out over deadlines or all have kids at home you don’t see enough of.

Buying them breakfast one morning is a nice way of letting them know you are in this together and will surely result in smiles.  

21. Tell someone you are proud of them.

Maybe you have a kid who doesn’t get the best grades in math. Or a friend with a demanding spouse that never seems to be able to meet their expectations when it comes to cleaning or cooking. 

Turn things around and put a smile on their face by letting them know you are proud of them for something.

Tell your child you are proud of the way they studied so hard and never give up. Or let your friend know that you are proud to have them in your circle.

Letting someone know that you are proud of them may boost their self esteem and put a much needed smile on their face. 

22. Leave an unexpectedly large tip for your waiter or waitress.

Waitstaff and bartenders are often two of the least thankful jobs one can hold. More times than not, they are looked upon as servants and receive tips that don’t reflect how hard they actually work.

In fact, many of these people have more than one job just to make ends meet… or to pay for continuing education to improve their life. So the next time you are in a restaurant and receive excellent service with a smile, show them you truly appreciate it with a generous tip.  

23. Give your child’s bus driver a gift card for no reason.

School bus drivers are often forced to deal with chaos and screaming children on a regular basis. They may even have things thrown at them from time to time.

Yet, they still go on… and do their best to keep your kids safe.

Pick a day to accompany your child to their bus stop and say “thank you” with a gift card.  Unlike teachers, bus drivers don’t often get a designated “appreciation day”, but they deserve one nonetheless.

24. Hand a homeless person a grocery store gift card, or food and water.

While it is a common cliché that homeless people only want money for alcohol… it is not always true. Some are mentally or physically handicapped, or homeless veterans, who the system failed. Or maybe their families failed them.

Offering a homeless person food and water will not only help them out physically, but will likely restore their faith in the world with a smile. 

25. Cheer for a jogger running by your house on a smoldering day.

You’ve all seen that dedicated person out there running or jogging in all kinds of weather… rain, snow and excessive heat.  They have a purpose and a drive that is likely not appreciated by too many others.

There are also most likely days when they doubt themselves, or just don’t feel like getting out there. Yet, they do.

Cheering on that person the next time they run by your house in less than ideal conditions is a great way to help them reaffirm their commitment and show your support.

26. Show up unexpectedly at a friend or family member’s workplace and take them to lunch.

Few things make someone feel more special than being surprised by someone they love… especially at work.

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Make a plan to surprise someone you love at work and take them out for lunch.

Make a plan to surprise someone you love at work and take them out for lunch. Whether it’s at a  restaurant or simply sitting on a park bench… the smile will be just as big. 

27. Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass for one full day.

Smiling is contagious… kind of like yawning.

It’s hard to resist smiling back at someone who offers one to you. Make a pact to smile and say hello to every person you come across for one full day and watch the chain reaction of happiness ensue.

28. Offer to watch a friend’s child (or children) so they can have some alone time or a date night with their spouse.

True friendships are never one sided… or at least they shouldn’t be. Being there for one another doesn’t just mean doing so in times of need, but also when they least expect it.

Brighten up a friend’s day by offering to take the kids off her hands for a while. Maybe it’s a Saturday morning so she can grab a coffee and schedule a massage. Or an evening so she and her husband can go out to dinner without paying a babysitter.

A little gesture goes a long way when it comes to solidifying those friendships that are worth hanging on to.   

29. Tell a goofy joke or make a complete fool of yourself for someone that needs a laugh.

Sometimes acting uncharacteristically silly can make someone’s day. If you’re typically even-keeled and reserved, try telling a dirty or goofy joke out of the blue to make someone who knows you laugh. 

Or why not bust out into the running-man right before the afternoon conference call with clients is about to begin? 

Whatever it takes… stepping out of your comfort zone for even a few moments can brighten someone’s day immensley.

30. Offer to load groceries into an elderly person’s car.

We’ve all been at the grocery store and saw an elderly person, maybe even a couple, walking with a cart full of bags and thought for a moment, “should I help them out?”.

Perhaps we don’t because we are afraid of diminishing their feeling of independence, but I guarantee that 9 times out of ten they will be grateful you offered… whether they accept the help or not. 

31. Notice someone’s new hair style or look.

Men and women alike enjoy receiving compliments, especially when it comes to their appearance. Maybe they needed a little pick-me-up or confidence boost and decided to try something new… something they weren’t quite sure about?

Telling someone you like what they’ve done with their hair or trimmed their beard is a great way to put a smile on that newly chic face of theirs!

32. Buy a “just because” present for someone you love.

There is no rule that says you can only give presents on birthdays, special occasions and holidays.

If you love someone, let them know you were thinking about them when you came across and item they’d like.

It can be something small… but whatever it is, make sure it’s something nthe shows them you are attune with their interests, hobbies and thoughts. That you listen.

Attentiveness like this is sure to put a big smile on someone’s face… and in their hearts.

33. “Pay it Forward”.

Based on the title of one of my favorite movies,  “Pay It Forward” has transformed into a movement. A concept. A way of life for some people.

The idea is simple… someone does something kind or selfless for you, and you simply return the favor to someone else.

The hope is it will cause a chain reaction of good deeds, raising people’s spirits and restoring their faith in others… even strangers.  

You can help but smile when someone extends an act of kindness for no reason, whether you are on the receiving or giving end.

Final Thoughts on How to Make People Smile

We can all use a little pick-me-up now and again. But remember, the world is only as jaded as we allow it to be.   

We will all have our good days and bad, but if you can focus on the good things each day and muster up the courage to make another person smile… the effect on them will almost certainly rub off on you. Lifting your own spirits as well.

And that is what we call a win/win.

Check out this article on the benefits of gratitude to help you find your motivation, even when it may appear tough to do. 

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.

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