Close your eyes. Imagine walking into a room filled with people you love all smiling at you. How does that make you feel?
The humble smile is an amazing thing. It not only enriches your wellbeing, but also that of others. It’s free, but is sometimes the most meaningful gift we can give.
Even if only for a brief moment, a smile projected from one face to another, lifts spirits and orients your whole self to a more positive mindset. Dishing out smiles is one of the simplest and effective ways to reap greater enjoyment from life.
A common language that we share with all other members of the globe, smiling occurs naturally from the earliest stages of our development. Acting as an evolutionary survival mechanism, a smile is designed to increase interaction and bonding between mother and baby. Smelly nappies, blood curdling screams and temper tantrums are certainly not the most highly desirable aspects of parenting, but when the bearer inevitably rewards you with a magnificent lippy smile, a feeling of love comes streaming into our being and all is forgiven.
Yet as we journey through the cycle of life, like so many things associated with childhood, smiling, particularly at strangers, often diminishes. Delivering smiles shifts from a spirit of openness and love, where reciprocity is almost a given, to an analytical, and far too often, fear-based thought process. Thoughts such as “How will my smile be interpreted?” or “I don’t know this person, so I’ll play it safe and not draw attention to myself by smiling” begin to encroach into the conscious mind. All too often, a walk in the park or down the street is with heads down, averting people’s gaze, rather than seeking it out.
Restricting or rationing smiles has an even deeper impact on wellbeing, shutting down positive emotions, both in ourselves and in others.
The great news is that it’s never too late to adopt a smiling mindset. Consciously choosing to laugh or smile, re-wires the brain (neuroplasticity) to a more positive mindset, improving mood, lowering blood pressure and releasing endorphins, those feel-good hormones.
Regular mindfulness practice focusing attention on your smile is one of the best ways to begin. Here’s a simple guided 10-minute smile mindfulness practice to enable you to reconnect with your inner smile:
Make yourself comfortable either seated or lying down and gently close your eyes. Take a moment to connect with your breath by taking a few deep breaths in and out. When your body is feeling more relaxed, place a smile on your face. It might help you to think of a time in your life when you felt really loved, or when you shared a happy moment with loved ones. Harness a heart-felt smile, brimming with self-compassion and self- love and just for that moment, really believe that all is well in your world.
Sit with this smile and note how it makes you feel. How does your forehead feel? How do your eyes, cheeks and lips feel? Can you feel the twinkle in your eyes? What is happening to the whole of your whole body when you focus your attention on a smile?
Now smile even more deeply, breathing it in, then exhaling the smile until every cell, every tissue, every muscle, every fibre of your body is smiling back at you, and note how it makes you feel. Stay with this feeling and know that at any time of day you can change the way you feel, just by placing a heart-felt, genuine smile on your face.
So next time you’re feeling down, transform inner grizzle to inner peace by putting a smile on your face. Whether at work, or play, or just strolling down the street, smile often, smile deeply, smile regularly and don’t forget to share.
You may never be able to assess its true reach, but as a gift that keeps giving, it could well be infinite. Now how many things can do that? Smile out loud (SOL). Let’s start a SOL revolution.
In love and laughter,