For the last week or so I have been experimenting with making myself smile at all times and exploring the results on my state of mind and wellbeing (it is not really what you could describe as scientific…).
The idea being, that when we are happy, we tend to smile, however, the feedback loop seems to work both ways and when we smile, just the act of smiling seems make us to feel happy.
The first thing I needed to do was find the right smile, I wanted the half smile of someone who has found peace in themselves, who is happy in the world, that serene half smile of the Buddha. Not a smug self-righteous smirk. Or a gormless grin.
It is actually harder than you think to find the right smile. I spent a considerable amount of time testing out different smiles in the mirror and then still found it would slip and adjust itself to a different kind of smile (often to a vacant grin…) and I would need to “readjust it”.
The idea was not to consciously make any effort to change my thought processes, but to just keep smiling and notice what it did to my state of mind. Obviously the smile was going to slip at times, when I noticed that I would just start to smile again.
The thing I noticed almost straight away was when I smiled I felt more mindful and alert, I noticed things around me I didn’t usually notice and I actually felt energised, which surprised me. I didn’t think smiling would give me more energy, but there you go. On several occasions I was out and about and had totally forgotten to smile, I found myself becoming inpatient, short tempered or flustered. When that happened I stopped and just consciously put the smile back on my face. Immediately I found I became calmer, less stressed and flustered, the tension would literally feel like it was falling away.
The odd thing was, my smile seemed to have an effect on people around me too, they seemed to be more polite and patient or helpful and some would, when catching my attention give me a half smile back before realising what they had just done and look away embarrassed. I wonder if that was just a coincidence?
So give it a go. Just smile. See how it makes you feel (and let me know – please leave a comment below!).