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Don't Worry, Be Happy

A smile is synonymous with happiness. Like a switch, turning on your smile ends darkness.

Known as the “Father of Mindfulness”, world renowned Vietnamese Monk, Thich Nat Hanh, recognized the power of positive expression. He offered the world Smile Meditation, a simple mantra-based practice to transform the mind through conscious smiling.

Hanh knew body language influences emotions. Recent studies reinforce his wisdom, showing when people stand confidently, they feel more confident. Similarly, research reports people who intentionally adopt a specific facial expression, like a smile or a frown, experience matching emotions. Smiling, when under the grey clouds of dark thoughts, may not come naturally but science says it may be just what the doctor ordered.

A natural drug, smiling releases mood-elevating endorphins, and the “happy hormones” dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters calm the nervous system, decreasing anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness. In fact, most often anti-depressant medications are designed to regulate serotonin!

The benefits of smiling go beyond mood. Lifting up the corners of your mouth boosts immunity by inducing relaxation and reducing stress.

Want to look younger and more attractive? Smiling is the antidote for aging and ugliness. Smile muscles increase blood flow to your face, improving complexion and skin tone. Smiles are approachable and inviting. People are attracted to those who look happy. Humans are born to smile. We smile in the womb and as babies as we sleep. Children smile approximately 400 times per day, a happy adult 40-50 times, and the average adult only 20 times daily. Life seems to teach us not to smile but we can choose otherwise. Like training any group of muscles, we can train our face to smile.

Smiley, the iconic yellow circle with black dot eyes and an upturned curve for a mouth was created by commercial artist Harvey Ball in 1963. The basis for emojis, clothing lines, music merch and even the face of some street drugs, Ball’s original intention was to create a morale booster for State Mutual Life Assurance Company. “It was sunshiny and bright,” he said. Since that day of introduction in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ball felt Smiley’s message of goodwill and good cheer was eroded by commercialization. In 1999, two years before his death, Harvey initiated World Smile Day to reignite the original flame of goodness. The day is dedicated to smiling and acts of kindness. Train for the event! Hanh’s Smile Meditation is the perfect exercise to get your face in shape. Sit comfortably. Repeat silently with your inner voice, “Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I smile.” Lift the corners of your mouth and feel your energy rise with each exhalation.

On Friday October 6, celebrate World Smile Day. Do an act of kindness – help one person to smile. You’ll personally reap the benefits and infect all of those you touch.

SMILE. Let’s start a positivity pandemic.

Paul Larmer is a mindfulness coach, personal trainer and professional speaker. Book a session for yourself or your team,

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