Flex Your Smile Muscles when Practicing Mindfulness
When you focus on smiling, you reduce your stress levels, encouraging more peaceful and relaxed sensations. By putting a smile on your face, you automatically begin to lift your mood. You don’t even have to be genuinely smiling — begin by just faking it and see what happens!
Have you noticed that people who smile tend to be surrounded by a lot of people? The reason is that being in their company is pleasant. After all, you broadcast your emotional state from your facial expression. Some researchers have discovered links between how intensively people smile and the quality of their relationships, and even claim to be able to predict how long people will live from old photographs of people smiling.
Have a go at this smiling meditation and record your findings. Hold a gentle smile on your face as you do this meditation:
Find a place where you can comfortably practice smiling and where you feel comfortable.
Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths (you can keep your eyes open or closed).
Say to yourself, ‘I’m aware that I’m breathing in’ (or just ‘breathing’) as you breathe in.
Say to yourself ‘I smile at my out-breath’ (or just ‘smiling’) as you breathe out.
Continue repeating Steps 3 and 4 for a few minutes.
Now answer the following questions and reflect on what you discover.
How did you feel at the beginning of the meditation?
How did you feel during the mindful smiling practice? What did you like or dislike about it?
How did you feel at the end of the practice? Did you feel lifted at all? Would you like to try this more regularly for a week or two, to see what effect it has?
Here are some alternative phrases to say to yourself as you smile and breathe in and out. Try each one for a few minutes or longer and see which ones you like:
Grateful for my in-breath . . . grateful for my out-breath.
I smile as I breathe in . . . I open my heart as I breathe out.
Breathing in is wonderful . . . breathing out is wonderful.
Present moment . . . wonderful moment.
Breathing in, I’m happy . . . breathing out, I’m smiling.
Smiling while simultaneously thinking a negative thought is pretty difficult to do. The mere act of smiling seems to drain the thought of some of its power.