“Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.”
“By transforming destructive emotions into positive energy the inner smile removes the cause and symptoms of disharmony” – Mantak Chia
“Peace begins with a Smile” – Mother Theresa
When I’m deep in thought, I frown … It must be the strain or the effort as I’m always mulling things over in my head looking for neat little places to place an idea or theory. Its what my face naturally does and it’s never bothered me but I remember years ago either walking to school or through town and complete strangers looking at me concerned, they would frown back in mirroring my expression but add a positive phrase “cheer up, it can’t be that bad”, and then half smile at me as if to offer encouragement. I hate to think I caused unnecessary concern to anyone and I was mortified, as I must have looked so sullen. I have just always, it seems, has a serious looking face and mostly serious to anyone other than those close to me.
So, several months ago, I started doing The Half Smile. It sounds ridiculously simple but it works. It feels a little forced and fake to begin with but physically and socially it does change your demeanour. I did start to feel more calm, less stressed as I was out and about. People respond a lot more positively to you as well which in turn, creates a more positive cycle.
In Tao tradition positive and negative emotions are directly aligned with the internal organs. One of the keys to good health is to become aware of the emotional energies that reside in our organs, then to transform the negative emotional energies into positive traits. Ayurvedic principles teach that we greet one another with a pleasant face, in Proverbs 15.13 of the Bible, it’s written “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit“. The Taoist inner smile teaches that it arises from a loving intention, surfaces on the face then suffuses our internal and external reality. Though a smile may feel fake initially our psychophysiology responds with happiness anyway. Respected Monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Research by French physiologist Dr Israel Waynbaum infers that facial muscles used to express emotion trigger specific brain neurotransmitters. Smiling signals endorphins and immune boosting killer t-cells whereas frowning triggers the secretion of stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline. The happy hormones released stabilise blood pressure, improve respiration, relax muscles, reduce pain, accelerate healing and help to stabilise mood.
Someone smiles at you at you and you fell edified, encouraged, hopeful … Someone frowns at you and be it brief or lingering you are surrounded by a feeling of judgement, scorn or embarrassment. We may not believe we’re receptive to the merest slight of facial expressions but we truly are. We just process things at such a rate now I don’t believe many of us are truly aware of why or how we feel the way we do a lot of the time. Within a few in a nano-seconds our transitory emotions can be supremely air-lifted or body slammed into the ground.
Places to practise your half smile:
- as soon as you wake – this will aid you in approaching the day in a calmer manner
- waiting in a queue – once impatience starts to rear it’s ugly head, prepare your half smile
- when you’re starting to get stressed – breathe and do what you know you should
Still not convinced … Famous Half Smilers (tongue in cheek) … Madonna – as in The Virgin Mary, Buddha, Mona Lisa and Kate Middleton.
In short, I’ve tried it, it works !