Let’s start the year boldly! I, Julie Thorson, the top expert in nothing and a leader who still has a lot to learn, declare 2024 the year of smiles. 

Not “pleasant, I look nice on LinkedIn” smiles, but big, toothy, cheeks-hurt, authentic smiles. During a time when negativity seems to have a chokehold on our society, I say the best way to fight it is to find every reason to smile and share that with the world. 

This is a resolution we can all keep. Smile more! There isn’t a way to measure this year after year, but you can commit to the intention to do it more often. 

If you have already stopped reading because this is too simple or frivolous for you, fine. You are probably too serious or stressed to care, which is why you should keep reading. If you are one of those people who doesn’t smile because it’s “not my face.” I offer to you, sincerely, consider for a minute what your face tells others.

We can all find reasons to smile. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”  I think Dolly Parton originally said it, but one of my favorite residents made the quote his own and for years you could hear him in the halls saying this with a huge smile and laugh to go along with it! (I know we aren’t supposed to have favorite residents, but we all do. We all have residents who have touched our lives so dramatically that years later their imprint remains. Favorites are fun, especially when you have more than one.)

My commitment to you and myself this year is to find more reasons to smile. This will be a year filled with play, laughter and smiles that make our faces hurt. For too many years we have been the field where regulations, horror stories and stress take center stage. Enough is enough! Great things happen in our communities every single day. Let’s be proud and share the wonderfulness of senior services. 

My declaration will take effort. To smile in the face of frustration is a challenge. No one can smile all the time. That is impossible. I am a realist after all. But I do know it makes you feel better. Try it … right now. Smile. Hold it. Now smile a little harder. Feeling silly? Good. Laugh out loud and make the person next to you wonder what the heck is happening. I guarantee you will feel better, and so will they. It is that easy. 

I wish you unlimited smiles in 2024. I look forward to sharing a good laugh with you. A story with the specific purpose of putting a smile on your face. Maybe even a joke or two? Who doesn’t love a good joke? Smiles bring us all together regardless of age. Laughter brings us even closer. A good laugh together bonds us. A belly laugh connects us. 

Here is to cheek-aching smiles, belly laughs and optimism in 2024. 

Happy New Year! 

Julie Thorson is a past recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She currently facilitates LeadingAge Iowa’s Leadership Academy. She is a LeadingAge Academy fellow and former coach. The Head Coach (president and CEO) of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and an alumna of LeadingAge’s Leadership Educator Program.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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