Simply reflect on past experiences that brought you happiness.
Recently a close friend of mine, I’ll call Amanda, was going through a rough time in her life and was learning how to use meditation to help her get through this time. She told me that her meditation teacher had instructed her to try smiling when meditating. She found this instruction a little odd, but decided to give it a go and started smiling while practicing her morning meditation. The next time I saw her at our yoga class she seemed so calm and relaxed, and she was smiling! That was something I hadn’t seen her do in ages!
“The teacher was right,” she reported. “Something about the act of smiling does something inside. It just makes you want to smile more.” I have to say I wasn’t a bit surprised by her remark, as I have long been aware of the value of smiling. Many people think that smiling is something you do to be polite or only when you are feeling good, but the truth is that smiling holds so much more for us, especially if we can make smiling a personal practice.
A true smile is one that turns up the corners of the mouth and causes crinkling around the eyes, and scientists believe smiling this way may relieve stress by helping you slow your breath and reduce your heart rate. According to a study by Professor Leonard L. Martin and Sabine Stepper, people who used their facial muscles to smile when viewing a cartoon found the cartoon to be funnier than those who didn’t smile. So it would appear that the simple act of putting a smile upon your face is enough to improve your mood and ease stress!
While you don’t necessarily have to have a happy thought in order to smile, it always helps if you can find your own reasons to smile. And even if you don’t feel like smiling at first, once you put on a smile, it’s likely that it will quickly turn into the real thing. You can watch or read something funny, spend time with family and friends whose company you enjoy, or simply reflect on past experiences that brought you happiness.
All it takes to bring a smile to my face is to think of my dogs playing squiggling on the floor, or imagining the my line in a big department store. I hope you will find many reasons to smile this week, and take advantage of the warmth and good feelings that a smile can bring. And may this week smile on you!