If you look at a picture or statue of the Buddha .. you are likely to see him holding a small upturning of the mouth, a relaxed and easy half-smile.
Smiling has been confirmed by modern psychology as having very positive effects, sending messages to the brain that everything is okay and assisting us to feel better. The smile also deeply relaxes our facial muscles and leads to the whole body feeling more relaxed. When you soften muscles in your cheeks and eyes, the edges of your mouth naturally turn upwards – and facial tension dissolves. Studies have shown that holding any particular facial expression can mimic in us the feeling of that emotion .. and marked changes can be found in our autonomic nervous systems solely from our chosen expression.
Holding a half-smile has been shown to help stimulate positive emotions thereby purposefully attracting peacefulness .. even when we don’t feel like smiling!
Instructions: for three rounds of breath lift the corners of the mouth ever so slightly .. into a gentle ‘half smile’ and hold that position for the duration of the practice. Our focus is on the sensation of the half smile (I recently heard this referred to as .. ‘mouth yoga’).
Morning half-smile: Place a small sign by your bedside with the word “smile”. When you awaken this serves as a reminder to hold the half smile while focussing on three rounds of gentle breathing. Watching the inhalation, watching the exhalation and maintaining the half smile.
Stressed half-smile: If you manage to catch yourself starting to react to something or someone .. implement the half smile immediately! Maintain a beautiful half-smile while quietly inhaling and exhaling for three breathes: smiling internally and externally.
Just Waiting half-smile: It is estimated we spend at least 20 minutes a day standing in a queue .. at the bank, waiting for an appointment or at our desk waiting on-line .. ahh, the perfect opportunity to practice the half-smile. (Might we find better customer service following our half-smile practice? .. let’s see)