The Smiling Approach
Becoming More Positive
I have been giving a lot of thought to how we train or re-train our minds to help us become more positive. One thing we can do is to take advantage of our own biochemical natures.
The “Smiling Approach,” outlined below, uses a quick fix technique I have done for years, and then adds a meditation/relaxation technique that was hinted at, without details, in the recently lovely book, “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Trust me, they work!
The Biochemical Philosophy
What’s behind it:
Physically smiling – whether real or fake – sends a “smilingness” message to the brain. Once the brain gets the message, two things happen:
- Happiness Chemicals: The physical “I am smiling” message (again, doesn’t matter if it’s fake) causes the brain to release happiness-generating chemicals into your system in response.
- Feedback Loop: This creates a feedback loop. Fake smiles, held long enough, become real. Takes a tiny bit longer for the brain chemistry to kick in, but kick in it will. It’s one of the weirdnesses of human biochemistry.
It sounds strange, but making a big ‘ole fake smile, and holding it, actually causes calming and mood-elevating reactions in your body. (Note: don’t do this with strangers watching, unless you want to provoke an interesting reaction!)
Quick Fix Technique
- Make A Smile: With your eyes open, make a big fake smile (teeth or no teeth, your preference).
- Pay Attention to the Smile – it may take a moment, but you will slowly feel the area around your mouth begin to feel physically “happy.”
- Notice the Spread: If you keep at it, the area will spread. Once it reaches your eyes, the smile will feel real, your whole face will feel more relaxed and enlivened, and your mood will lift a bit higher. You may feel ridiculous, but funny. Feel free to laugh.
- Breathe: Take a deep breath through your nose, and let it out through your mouth. It’s often almost bizarre how much better one can feel……
The Smiling Meditation or Relaxation Technique
This is based on a “hint” in the book “Eat, Pray, Love.” (I have no idea if this is what she really did.) It can be done either as a sitting meditation for those so inclined, or as a way to relax before going to sleep.
- Take A Comfortable Pose – sitting or lying down.
- Cleansing Breaths: Close your eyes, take a deep breath in slowly through your nose, then expel it quickly through your mouth. Do it 1-3 times (or more), til you can put your attention and focus into your body.
- Center Yourself: Take a moment to center yourself in your body – say, “I am here now.”
Begin To Smile In Your Face
- Start to Smile: Allow a very slight smile to come onto your lips. It doesn’t have to be big – just til you have the sense that your lips are smiling.
- Think, “My lips are smiling.” Feel how happy your lips feel.
- Mindfully, Let it Spread: Slowly allow the “smile/happy” feeling to spread over your face – note “my upper lip is smiling, my chin is smiling, my cheeks are smiling, my nose is smiling, my eyes, eyebrows, forehead, ears, hair, back of head, etc. etc. etc are smiling.”
- Pause: Take a moment to feel your whole head smiling.
Spread The Smile Throughout Your Body
- Allow It to Spread: Bit by bit, allow the feeling of smilingness to spread through your body – neck (front and back) shoulders, arms, hands, chest, etc. etc. til your whole body is filled with the feeling of smiling.
- Allow It to Spread Inside, Too: Continue with feeling your imagined inner organs smiling – esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, etc. (whatever you can remember!), so that the inside of your body is smiling, too.
Spread The Smile To The World Around You
Give It Away!: When time permits (or you are not yet asleep!), imagine that feeling of smilingness spreading to everyone/everything you love – I feel Paul being filled with my smile, my mother, my sister, my dog Annie, my beautiful trees, my world….
Gratitude: Once you’ve covered every thing you want, end with a “thank you” – to whatever great and Universal source of good luck you chose – for the happiness you have just experienced and given out.
Come Back…(or skip this step and go to sleep!)
- Breathe: Take 3 breaths before opening your eyes.
- Return: Slowly allow your consciousness to return to your body and your mind.
- Stretch, smile, and go to the next step with an awareness of how happy you can be.