Marcey Shapiro, MD
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
While many people believe that their facial expressions are a result of their emotions, there is actually a two-way feedback. Your emotions will respond to your facial expression as well. So if you smile, even if you are not feeling joy, this action can lift your emotions. The act of smiling informs your brain that you are happy, whether or not you are feeling happy when you begin the smile, and your brain responds as if that is true.
One of my patients had a botox injection from a medical esthetician to clear her frown lines. To her amazement, she noticed that when her brow would not wrinkle up, and her mouth could no longer pucker into a grimace, she actually felt a lot happier. She found that the kind of thoughts that led to frowning were harder to access, and she began to smile more.
Smiling is a universal reflex of joy in humans. Even people in isolated tribes smile as a sign of pleasure. Fetuses smile in utero. Small children smile up to four hundred times per hour. Psychological researchers have found that adults who smile frequently are happier as ranked on personality tests, and are perceived as more intelligent and capable by others.
So, for a simple exercise, smile for one minute or longer, at least three times per day. Suggested times are when you awaken, at lunchtime, and before bed. Do this daily for a least a month. Notice any positive changes in your point of view.