Most people believe that we smile because we are happy or frown because we are sad or otherwise stressed/distressed. There is however, considerable research evidence to indicate that the reverse is at least equally the case: facial expression is a determinant of mood.
Perhaps more important than the psychological and anthropological research that a quick internet search points to, is the value of doing your own exploration to see if and when this bears out in your own experience. Be a case study of one: be your own research subject.
The experiment: Practice a slight ,quiet, shy, smile for an extended period of time, intentionally, mindfully. You can practice this while meditating and also while going about your daily life.
This is not a social smile in order to elicit any particular response. Not a “say cheese” smile, not a “Kodak” smile (do people still say this?) , not a red carpet , Disneyland, FaceBook, self promotion, wedding album smile. Simply slightly upturned corners of the mouth ,relaxed,easy smile. Once you become accustomed to the practice, it will feel effortless. This is for your own self -exploration. Feel free to enter the experiment skeptically.
Explore /observe how facial expression effects your own mood and frame of mind. Try this smile experiment at various times of day , under various conditions. Gradually extend and expand how long you practice this at one stretch. Honestly assess if and how the smile practice effects you.
It might not even feel like you are smiling if you usually think of a smile as “I just won an award” expression. More like: I have a sweet happy secret smile. Think : Meditative Smiling Buddha more than Laughing Buddha. Think: Mona Lisa smile. If it feels effortful, do less, less length of time and/or less intensity of smile. Perhaps shift to simply thinking of a smile inwardly until this feel like a new norm.
In the Jewish meditation tradition , this practice is referred to as The Shadow of the Daughter of a Smile (verbal transmission from Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man; original text source , unknown by this author). This description is my personal favorite. The poetry and feminine imagery connect me with a relaxed softness of being. Reflect on the subtlety implied here: Shadow..ephemeral ,fleeting ,barely there at all. Daughter of a smile..not the smile itself..but the next generation following a smile, the after-effect of a smile if you will. Hence: The ephemeral after -effect of a smile. The sweetness of the phrase inspires me to …well…feel : the Shadow of the Daughter of a Smile.
Dr.Hanna Chusid is a Lic Clinical Psychologist based in Southern California who offers Mindful SelfCare™ coaching and trainings weaving cutting edge science with ancient wisdom traditions for healing, fulfillment ,compassionate leadership and resilience in person and internationally on line , with individuals and organizational leadership and teams. www.mindful-selfcare.com
Originally published at medium.com