What’s in a smile? The general idea is that our emotions affect our behaviour, but what if simple changes in our behaviours or body movements could affect how we actually feel? It turns out, our body works in more interesting ways than we previously knew, and the simple act of consciously choosing to smile can in itself make us feel happier.
How Our Brains Create a Smile?
When we think of a memory that brings us joy or have any experience that makes us feel happy, that information gets processed by the brain, which then triggers certain muscles. These muscles include the zygomaticus major around the mouth, drawing upwards into a smile, as well as the cheek raising orbicularis oculi muscle, the contraction of which is the key ingredient to a genuine smile. This is an involuntary response.
On the other hand, we can make a conscious smile, which involves just the zygomaticus major. Though this smile in itself doesn’t have the effect a genuine smile of ours has on others, it can still make us feel better.
The Art of Smiling More Often
Here are some ways we can add more smiling into our daily lives!
Practice smiling. I remember reading a neat trick once, which was to smile a wide smile about 30 times a day. This way, our muscles can get used to smiling more, and it can become a more automatic response.
Here is another smile exercise shared by Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman:
“We ask a person, before they engage in a conversation with someone else, visualize someone they deeply love, or recall an event that brought them deep satisfaction and joy. It’s such an easy exercise, and we train people to do it in our workshops.”
Play any music that has an uplifting effect on you, and move with it. You may find that your facial expressions begin to match the energy of the song. In the end, you may find your physical state to be quite different than before the song.
As we seek happy moments and reasons to smile, we may find them come to us more. One way to do this is to visualize what happiness and genuine smiles look like. What are we doing? What do we look like? How are we interacting with others?
Make a note to try to find at least 3 moments of happiness every day. This can start with a question like “what makes other people smile?” as well as “what makes me smile?”. Make note of it, and see if you can include such moments in your own life.