Need a quick mood lift? Just smile.
I realize this sounds a bit like putting the cart before the horse, counting chickens before they’re hatched, and spending lottery winnings before you’ve even bought the ticket, but it’s true. Even better, it turns out you don’t even need an actual reason to smile to experience the benefits. Just the act of smiling can increase positive emotions like happiness, peace and serenity, and lower negative emotions like sadness, anger and anxiousness.
There is a strong connection between facial expressions and emotions. If you’re not sure what I mean, frown or roll your eyes, then notice what feelings and thoughts show up. See? The brain takes its cues from the face in terms of how and what to feel. Your facial expressions affect how you perceive what’s happening with you and around you. So when the smile muscles are activated-even a Mona Lisa half smile has some benefits-the brain senses this movement and decides something good must have happened to cause you to smile. It then releases hormones like serotonin, which reduces stress, and dopamine, which increases happiness.
Now use that new-found knowledge to your benefit. Try this technique for a few seconds and notice how you feel afterwards. Feel free to experiment with both a half-smile and full smile. Do this whenever you need or want to lift or re-direct your mood. Want to build your smile skills even more? See how long you can comfortably hold your preferred smile, or practice your smile in more challenging situations like waiting in a long line or driving in rush hour. Thich Nhat Hanh summed it up best-“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”