I recently came across some notes my daughter had made in a class that caught my attention.Â She is working towards a degree in Psychology and the note concerned the physiological effects of smiling as shown in scientific research.
I have long believed in the power of laughter to heal and have also consciously been aware of the “good” feelings produced and experienced, both physiologically and energetically, when I smile as opposed to when I have a serious or “frown-y” face.
Back to my daughter’s class notes.Â What I learned is that when a person smiles certain muscles of the face are involved and activated: the zygomaticus major muscles which lift the corners of the mouth and the orbicularis oculi muscles which, when contracted, crinkle the skin around the eyes.Â The activation of these muscles sends a communication to the brain that helps it evaluate mood.
So, even if you don’t feel like smiling, using your facial muscles to create a smile can begin to send a positive signal to the brain, lift your energy vibration and thus lighten and brighten your mood.
I remember my first yoga teacher would encourage us to smile in order to “soften” the poses and I found that to be one of the most valuable instructions in my ability to manage and enjoy my yoga practice.Â I find that smiling while holding a yoga pose makes it lighter and less intense – I don’t feel as weighed down, overwhelmed or intimidated by the pose.
We are all familiar, I’m sure, with the phrase “misery loves company”, and have also most likely experienced the contagious nature of smiling and laughter.Â Simply put, this comes from our ability and natural human response to match energy with both those around us and with our environment.Â For instance, you may find it easier to feel happy on a warm, bright, sunny day than on a cold, grey, gloomy day.Â Similarly, being in the company of positive, happy people is often more uplifting than surrounding yourself with unhappy, negative people.
I realize there are times in our lives when “raising” a smile might be challenging, if not temporarily impossible, and that part of the value of a human life comes from experiencing the full range of emotions inherent in our physical form.
However, when the intensity of a crisis passes or a crippling pain begins to subside, it is beneficial to recognize the healing power of “turning that frown upside down”.Â You have nothing to lose in trying it!