Did you know the muscles in the face are the strongest muscles in the entire body? I just made that up. But it sounds good doesn’t it? You may not be able to pick up a heavy object with your cheeks, but you sure can pick up a heavy spirit that way (which is often times much heavier). It’s pretty amazing really. The muscles in your face responsible for lifting the corners of your mouth to form a smile :-) actually have a psychological affect on you and the people around you.
There is a direct correlation between our body and our minds, and it works both ways. For example, look what happens when you think about an embarrassing event in your past, or something coming up that you are really dreading. If you sit with that scenario in mind for a moment, then check in with your body, you will probably find tension in certain muscles. You may have to pay close attention in order to pick up on that, but our bodies can’t tell the difference between what’s real and our thoughts about what’s real. It’s much more noticeable when you check in with your body while watching a suspenseful movie, but I digress.
I invite you to see what it’s like to manipulate the mind-body connection going in reverse (so to speak). Close your eyes and check in with your body. Just notice if there is any tension anywhere, and just allow it to be there. Tension is okay. Now, with your eyes still closed, smile gently to yourself :-) Notice your breathing as you smile. See how your body feels when you smile. Does it feel lighter? More relaxed? Take another deep breath while you smile and just feel what it’s like to have a smile on your face. It may make you smile more when you realize you are smiling for no reason. The sense of silliness of this exercise may feed on itself and make your smile even broader.
When ever it occurs to me, which is often times when I’m driving or feeling a bit tense, I smile to myself. I also find it helpful to smile at the little voice in the head when I notice it going round and round like a top that won’t stop spinning. We take our thoughts so seriously, which is the root of all tension. As Byron Katie likes to say, “Reality is always kinder than our story about it.” For example, can you be stressed out about something without thinking about it? Is there ever a problem before we think one into existence? Our life situation is only as serious as we think it is, and it’s always less serious than we think. The simple act of smiling takes the seriousness out of our story and replaces it with a sense of ease.
Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book, The Power of Now, that we not take our thoughts too seriously as part of learning to disidentify with the voice in the head. When we smile at the voice in the head, we take away its power over how we feel, which leaves room for us to relax. Relaxation makes us smile, and smiling helps us to relax. In the words of the famous Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Say cheese :-)