Monday, May 3, 2010


A Tai Chi teacher once told me that when we smile we bring energy up the body and it is a quick and easy way to transport us to a place of happiness. He illustrated by smiling and pointing to the two outside portions of a grin that face upward. It made sense to me after I smiled for a few moments. My head re-aligned, my posture improved, and I felt an overall feeling of well-being emerge out of nowhere.
Whether it’s walking to the subway, sitting in a car, or waiting in line for lunch, we spend a good portion of the day carrying around a face with little expression. Now imagine smiling more frequently during some of these situations. Do you think it will affect your mood and energy level? Does a smile immediately alter your way of thinking? Also, is it possibly to suddenly feel great from going through the motions and smiling at nothing in particular?

If you have a few moments, consider taking part it a small smiling exercise where you smile constantly for 30 seconds. You do not associate it with anything and try not to hold any images in your mind - simply smile. How did it feel? Were you surprised by the result? What did you notice about it? What did it bring up for you? What did you think about?

Now, the second part of the exercise is to smile again for 30 seconds, but this time concentrate on something that does make you smile. How was this part of the exercise? What made this experience different than part 1? Was it different that part one? Did it bring up something completely different for you?

Here is a little bit about what I experienced while taking part in the exercise:

Part 1: In the very beginning I felt great from simply smiling, but then it somehow became harder. I wasn’t used to smiling for 30 seconds straight. I thought it was interesting because it shows how even though I love to smile and laugh, I do spend a good part of my day not smiling. I also noticed that I started giggling a little bit. I think it was out of habit because when I smile it is most likely followed by a laugh. It is a type of conditioned response, and by going through the motions of smiling it naturally brought on some laughter. I also discovered that my breathing became much easier and deeper. With each inhalation I felt like I was receiving more fuel and became very energized. There seemed to be less thinking involved, and I was calm and more in the moment of the smile. It was refreshing to realize that I can make more an effort to smile throughout dull points of my day in order to get into more of a relaxed and happier mindset.

Part 2: This exercised was harder for me. I thought about my family while smiling and it felt great. However, after a few moments I had the urge to switch my focus and think about something else. This reminded me of how many of us feel gratitude for our lives, but sometimes it can be difficult to stay in these pleasant moods for an extended period of time. I know that for me I sometimes struggle with staying in the good moments because I become pulled to switch back and think about negative things and stay in worry. It can occasionally be easier to be stuck in this state where the cycle of fear and the unknown is drayed over continuously without resolution. When we get caught in this regression it seems safe somehow, as though it is what we’re suppose to be doing. I think it hooks into our survival instincts because we look out for things that could possibly prevent us from achieving our goals – economically, socially, physically, mentally, etc. However, this is a trap because no matter how much time you spend worrying, it doesn’t accomplish anything and is not beneficial.

Back to part 2 of the smiling exercise – I think the reaction to this part of the exercise is also dependent on what he/she is thinking of while smiling. At first, I thought about my family, but then I tried something simpler and imagined a little puppy following its mother. I visualized the look on both their faces, and felt vicariously joyful. I could feel the love – even though it was not real. Then again, if I imagine something and think about it, doesn’t that make it real within my own reality? The memory of thinking about it is there, so how is that different than experiencing it? That’s just something to think about!

The most important thing I noticed from this exercise was that I felt happier, and more energized, simply by smiling for no more than 30 seconds. It put me in a good place in just an instant. It shows that you can do this exercise anytime to change your state of mind, zip up your energy, and see things from a different and more pleasant perspective.

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