Benefits of Mindful Smiling
“Fine.” “Okay.” “Good.” “Alright.” “Well.”
These are the words we often respond to the question, “How are you?” Often times the question is asked automatically with no real interest. But sometimes our close family members, friends, (or therapists), are really interested in knowing how we’re doing. While our minds may say, “Fine.” “Okay.” “Good.” “Alright.” “Well.” our faces will tell the truth… most times.
We have all [perhaps subconsciously] practiced the disingenuous smile when we respond “good,” and is often believed. However, sometimes we may feel positive emotion, but our faces may say otherwise. Some fall victim of what is commonly known as “Resting B* Face.” This is defined as, “A facial expression that unintentionally appears as if a person is angry, annoyed, irritated, or contemptuous, particularly when the individual is relaxed, resting or not expressing any particular emotion” (Wikipedia). In other words, sometimes our expressions don’t match our true feelings.
As silly as it may sound, it benefits us to take a few moments to truly observe what our smiles look and feel like. Look in the mirror and notice if your mouth turns upward on each side (or perhaps one side more than the other). Notice your eyes crinkle, and sometimes squint. Notice your cheeks get full. Your cheeks may even hurt if you’re lucky enough to smile or laugh hard. And if you’re laughing, notice where the laughter comes from and how it can sometimes take your breath away. This simple one-minute practice is practicing mindfulness for that moment. Taking a few mindful moments to notice our smiles will help our faces remember what a true smile feels like. Just remember to try to leave the judgment coming from your inner critic tucked away with your frown somewhere.
Practicing different facial expressions with children is also very beneficial. This social skill helps children to decipher non-verbal communication and how to respond appropriately. Not only is it beneficial for developing young children’s social skills, spending a few minutes in front of a mirror making funny faces with a loved one is also quite hilarious!
Next time you’re upset, think of all the beautiful reasons there are to smile during a typical day. Perhaps it’s a loved one’s face, a funny moment, a random act of kindness, or a child’s innocence. Remembering this precious moment and keeping it as a “go-to” may also help to decrease the intensity of sadness or anger during difficult times.
Remember, when we smile it not only affects our mood, but it also impacts the mood of others as well. Looking at the world with a smile and a positive outlook does wonders for our mindset too! As we travel through this journey called life, let's remember there is always a reason to smile… sometimes we just have to find it. Now go ahead and start practicing. :o)
Always learning. Always growing. Always aiming to inspire.
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with nearly two decades of experience in working with children and families. She is the CEO of Free to Be Mindful - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators.
Vanessa has been featured on the Today Show and is passionate about helping others Learn, Grow & Inspire… all with mindfulness in mind.